Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten (lepers) made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18)
Here in Canada, since our harvest comes earlier, we celebrate Thanksgiving in October. I once heard a priest say something very challenging in his Thanksgiving homily. Essentially he said that gratitude to God is more important than any other pious act—including prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Many of us have come to the BSP in response to a felt call to increased prayer and fasting. Sometimes it is easy to feel that if we live the rule to the best of our ability, we have done what we should. But if our practice does not flow from a grateful heart, even if we manage to live the Rule perfectly, our sacrificial gifts will carry the stench of ingratitude. How can God be pleased?
In this gospel reading, our Lord Jesus teaches us that to love God above all is the first and greatest commandment. What could be more fitting than to express that love through the practice of constant gratitude?
Much is said about gratitude these days. Popular western culture has made it trendy. But in making it trendy, God is very often left out of the formula. In popular culture, gratitude is a feeling not directed up, but in. We are told we can feel good about ourselves when we are not taking things for granted. A worthy-sounding sentiment, but anything directed inward is a temptation to idolatry.
When we direct our gratitude upwards, when we give thanks to the Source of all good, the heavens open up. The Creator reveals a facet of himself in each created thing. In contemplating God’s infinite generosity, our love for him cannot help but grow. Gratitude flows as we see his holy face in everything good and our gratitude gives him glory.
When we already spend one to two hours per day in prayer in living the rule, it is difficult to imagine that we might be leaving anything out. But Jesus tells us to pray always, not just one or two hours a day. If we make constant gratitude a practice, this will fulfill most beautifully what Jesus has asked us to do.
To live a life of constant gratitude to God, we need to be attentive to God in every detail of our lives, to give thanks at all times for even the smallest things. We may find that it is the smallest things that often evoke the strongest feelings of gratitude to our loving Father to whom no detail is too small to be left out. We will begin to see him as a doting Father, and our love for him will expand with each new expression of thanks.
Practically speaking it is easy to get caught up in our daily duties, our studies, or things that require our undivided attention. Sometimes at the end of my work day, I look back and see that there were very few times I gave thought to God, much less thanked him for his blessings. For me, it helps if I have a visual image of Jesus near to me. Perhaps the chair next to me is empty. As I work I can imagine him in it and thank him for each little thing, even asking him to correct the mistakes I make, especially when it comes to my dealings with others. I can offer up my daily inconveniences and challenges linking them to the cross, the image of which should fill me at all times with heartfelt gratitude. I can picture him walking with me, handing me the tools I need to do a good job, and most especially I can get in the habit of seeing him in the faces of those He sends me.
It is especially in difficult times that our gratitude should be given to the Father. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” God’s love never fails. What the evil one means for our destruction, God can use for great blessings and glory.
St. Paul tells us that in our sufferings, we make up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. What an unimaginable honor! He allows us to participate in his total love for souls by allowing us to take up our crosses for their sake. Seen in this light, it is our sufferings for which we should be most grateful. This excerpt from the writings of St. Rose of Lima is a most emphatic reminder of this:
“Our Lord and Saviour lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: ‘Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.’”
It may at first take a conscious effort, but through practice we can integrate gratitude into every moment of our lives. In this way the sacrifices we make and the prayers we offer will be carried upward on the fragrant incense emanating from our thankful hearts. God will indeed be pleased.
May gratitude become for us a daily practice of holiness for the glory of God the Father.
From my other blog, https://pelianitoblog.wordpress.com
2 timothy 4:4-5 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the invocation of God in prayer.
“My child, much damage is done when souls refuse to give thanks for God’s blessings. For everything that is blessed by God is good. So ask a blessing on all you consume, on all you do, on all you have. Let God determine what is good—not man! So many things are labeled as bad when what they lack is a blessing. Remember too that when you ask a blessing it behooves you not to misuse what has been blessed, but to act with temperance and prudence towards all created things. This age has seen a great shift, a polar reversal, in how creation is treated. That is having a direct consequence in the physical and spiritual planes. For created things are worshiped, abused, used to curse, but rarely blessed. Abomination! My children, make reparation to the Creator of all! So much damage has been done and purchased. Offer sacrifices and ask for blessings. The world is in dire need of blessing.”
Jesus, in the Divine Will we ask that you will bless all created things, both on the earth and in the heavens. Bless all things to our use and grant us temperance and prudence so that all you desire may be accomplished, for your glory. Father, please bless all creation. Holy Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth. Amen.