A few months ago I came across a quotation asking a question that stopped me in my tracks: “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?” It was and is a sobering reminder of the need to pause in the midst of daily life to simply and sincerely express thanks to God. As I examine my own conscience, I unfailingly find that I must confess that I lack proper gratitude for all the blessings that God has given to me in my life.
Ingratitude is a much easier posture to sustain than gratitude. There is always something that is wrong or could be better. It seems at times that negativity, cynicism, and criticism surround us like a dark cloud. It is a kind of lowest common denominator. Our culture is marinated in a sour mixture of ingratitude and hypercriticism. It is hard for us to not be infected by this toxic cocktail, but we need to resist it because it has a corrosive influence on our lives and on the people around us.
We need to name ingratitude and excessive negativity for what they are: sin. Our personal relationship with Christ lifts us above an ungrateful spirit. We begin to view things through a new lens and even if our circumstances apparently remain the same, our attitude changes. God loves us and gives us the gift of life. Every day is filled with countless blessings and opportunities to grow in love of Him and in joyful service to our neighbor. When we lift our gaze upward, our hearts are filled with gratitude and worship.
It is one’s attitude that makes the difference. I have found ingratitude among people who seem to have everything, and have been inspired to find gratitude in the most unlikely of places. I have witnessed grace before meals extend for several minutes as homeless people burst into spontaneous, heartfelt praise and worship for the food they are about to receive. I have heard people in rehabilitation centers give glory to God for small, barely perceptible “progress.” Most moving of all is to sit in a hospice with a person of faith at the end of life who is bursting with joy and gratitude as they reflect on their life’s blessings.
Gratitude is one of the characteristics of a mature, spiritual person. We do well to pray for the gift of gratitude. As with all good gifts, God is most eager to answer this prayer as it enables us to serve Him with joy and empowers us to be effective witnesses to His love and mercy. The Common Mass Preface for Weekdays (IV) reads in part:
For, although you have no need of our praise,
yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift,
since our praises add nothing to your greatness
but profit us for salvation
through Christ our Lord.
As we near Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful for my life, my vocation, my family, my friends, and all the blessings I have received in my life. I am thankful for all of you and the opportunity to serve you as a priest. I give thanks every day with you and for you as I celebrate the Eucharist, a Greek word that means “Thanksgiving.” I pray that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with your loved ones, and that we all carry that grateful spirit with us every day throughout the year.
Rev. Richard F. Clancy