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Philippines

Gratitude, memory of the heart

wrd fr bel san luis - word alive

A PRIEST, visiting a remote village chapel, delivered a 30-minute sermon on “Gratitude.” At the con­clusion of the sermon, he said, “And remember, however small the gift, always be grateful to the Lord.”

Later, when it was time for the col­lection, an usher used the priest’s hat to take up the offering.

* * *

When the hat came back to him, the priest shook it carefully, but heard no sound. Then he turned it upside down. But nothing came out. It was EMPTY!

Seeing this, every eye in the con­gregation watched to see if the priest would practice what he had just preached. Whereupon, the clergy­man raised his hands to heaven, still holding the empty hat, and said, “I thank Thee Lord that, at least, I got back my hat!”

* * *

The theme of our readings for the 28th Sunday of the year is grateful­ness. This virtue is exemplified by the grateful Naaman who was cured of his leprosy (2 Kgs 5, 14) and the Sa­maritan leper (Lk 17, 18) who were the recipients of God’s goodness.

Somebody rightly said, “Gratitude is memory of the heart.” Ingrates have no memories, no remembranc­es. “Walang utang na loob,” in local parlance.

* * *

Is it any wonder that our Lord in the gospel was disappointed when, out of the 10 who were healed, only one returned to say “thank you”? “There were 10 made clean; where are the other nine?” And this was even a Sa­maritan, a foreigner (Lk 17,18).

* * *

Are we grateful people? Just think of our prayers to God. Aren’t they al­most all prayers of petition, all “profit-oriented”?

I have nothing against prayers of petition because I also pray a lot of these. But do we remember to thank God for what we have received?

* * *

But do we also give thanks to God like the gifts of life, health, or some talent, which we take for granted as absolutely ours? Or the free gifts of Nature like the air, sunlight, water, plants.

The gift of life, our health, an ex­traordinary talent we think as abso­lutely ours. Did you ever thank God, too, for the free gifts of Nature like the air we breathe, sunlight, water, plants which we often take for granted?

* * *

Are we grateful also for failures, adversities and bad experiences that come our way, like that priest in the opening story? Failures and adversi­ties can be a wake-up call, an eye-opener to our mistakes and failures and induce us to reform.

* * *

One last thing to remember. When a person knows how to be grateful, the benefactor feels inspired to do more for him. And if this is the natu­ral response of human beings, how much more with God! So don’t forget to be grateful, first and foremost, to God, then your parents and benefac­tors.

When was the last time you said “thank you” to them?

* * *

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE: SECOND-CLASS? Today is designated by the Church as “Indigenous People Sun­day and Extreme Poverty Day” The event focuses our attention on our oft-forgotten, neglected if not consid­ered as second-class citizens of the country as well as our extremely poor people.

* * *

Due to their minority number and living in scattered isolation, indig­enous Filipinos tend to be forgotten and neglected. What’s worse is that, in some cases, heartless lowlanders take advantage of these peaceful, timid people by driving them away from their ancestral lands.

* * *

Ironically, Fr. Ewald Dinter, SVD, a German missionary to Oriental Min­doro who practically spent his whole life in the Philippines, said that the term “Christian” has a negative con­notation for many indigenous be­cause lowlanders who come to grab their lands are called “Christians.”

An Aeta, a Manobo, a Mangyan or a Tagbanua is just as much Filipino as you and me. Consequently, these tribals should not be regarded as sec­ond-class Filipinos.

* * *

Likewise, their human rights must be recognized and defended. The Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Filipinos of the Catholic Bishops’ Con­ference of the Philippines makes it clear that “the most effective defense is the recognition of their ownership rights over their territories.” Land is everything for indigenous people.

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