This week, in honor of Thanksgiving, I’m doing another post for the #BISsisterhood. This week’s topic is, of course, giving thanks.
I’ve learned a lot in the last several months about what it takes to be a follower and a lover of Christ. It takes a heck of a lot of humility. It takes a willingness to die to myself so I can let Jesus have His way. It takes trust, more trust than I ever thought I could place in a single person. It takes practice and discipline and a resolve to get back up and try again whenever I fall.
Lately I’ve also been realizing that it takes a real attitude of gratitude. As in gratitude that goes beyond the canned, cliché stuff that we always express when asked what we’re thankful for. If I’m going to live a life of gratitude, my gratitude must go deeper and it can’t just be reserved for the fourth Thursday of November. It has to become an every day, even an every moment thing.
And that sounds easy and lovely and worthwhile, does it not? A few months ago, as a way to implement and encourage this practice of gratitude, I started to use a journal during my nightly examination of conscience. One of the stages of such an exam is gratitude, when one looks back on their day and gives thanks for the gifts that God gave. It’s a wonderful practice because it keeps me humble and it challenges me to find the gold in even the hardest days.
But real gratitude can’t just well up from us when it’s easy or convenient, and quite often the things we ought to be grateful for don’t even look like gold at first glance. Not long ago I finished “Worshipping a Hidden God” by Archbishop Luis Martinez. It’s a breathtaking book brimming with wisdom about the interior life. One such bit of wisdom, the bit that I remember the best, is the startlingly simple truth that everything is a gift from God. That means giving thanks at all times and in all things, even when it’s hard. It means rejoicing during the “bad” days because they’re really not bad; they are good because they are from God. It means being grateful for even our sufferings, because through them we share in Christ’s passion and cross and we strengthen our trust and faith.
Real gratitude doesn’t lie in sifting through the bad stuff to find the good. It means choosing to realize that even that bad stuff is a gift. It means being grateful for that stuff, not grateful in spite of it. And as you can probably imagine, that’s hard. The last thing I want to do when I’m in a bitter mood or when I’m in a less-than-ideal situation is to thank God for it. Wallowing in self-pity is much easier. But Jesus hardly ever calls us to the easiest option. He calls us to the greater. And gratitude sure is better than feeling sorry for yourself.
Catholics are called to be a “Eucharistic people.” We are called to be the Body of Christ in a world that is so hungry for it. But we can’t forget the meaning of the word “Eucharist.” It translates to “thanksgiving.” In this regard, we can’t just be Eucharistic people one day of the year, any more than we can choose only sometimes to be the Body of Christ. We are, by virtue of our baptism, grateful people. We must understand that everything we have and are is pure gift from the hands of the Giver—the people in our lives, our health, our homes, even our sufferings and hardships. We must join our voices with Job when he said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” For the Giver is nothing short of generous when He doesn’t need to be, when we don’t deserve it. How could our response be anything short of gratitude?