The most important command Christ gave us is to love God and one another. Yet gratitude, from the Latin word gratus, is also at the heart of the gospels. Both the Old and New Testaments exhort us to praise and thank our Creator, the giver of all good things. As we draw closer to the heart of Christ, gratitude and love slowly shape not only our emotions, thoughts, and actions but also our inner spirit.
Since I was little, my heart has never been in stuff. Rather a strange state to be in because this is not the result of spiritual striving, fasting or prayer, it is just how I am. For example, one year when I was a child, my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas. My answer threw her for a loop: “Never mind, Mum, Santa knows what is in my heart.” Even now when people ask what I need or want for a special day, my mind is blank for a moment before I scramble to think of something to say. Our first world society might consider us poor, but my husband and I are happy and content.
Living with little people has only strengthened an innate tendency to enjoy the little things, to be grateful to be alive and in communion with the Spirit. In addition, as a large family with barely enough cash but many blessings, we have experienced many incidents of God’s providence. This scripture resonates within all of us.
Gratitude: God Provides
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34)
Kids understand these words, reminding me that the key to happiness and joy is not stuff but gratefulness and appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us. There is much to be grateful for if we will simply stop for a moment and really see what surround us every day. Children delight in the plethora of tiny details all around them. They are born with a sense of wonder and the ability to enjoy simple pleasures. Perhaps it is because they are closer to the ground: When we tried to go for a walk, they stopped at every flower and bug, especially a bug on a flower. As little children look, touch, smell, even lick each wonderful new discovery, all their attention is riveted on that one thing. At first it was difficult to slow down during our walks and let the toddlers set the pace but it was a wonderful instruction in how to relax, be grateful and become fully present to the moment.
At first, I was only capable of enjoying whatever captured my children’s notice but now I realize that they were experiencing so much more than I initially thought. In their silent, non-verbal attention to nature, they were in deep communion with God Himself as He is present in His creation. Adults struggle for years to merely glimpse the intimacy that little children have naturally with God. They do not need to strive or work for this state of contemplation because they are without guile, prior opinions or expectations; they are open and look with trust, ready to absorb the love, joy and peace that envelopes them. Children are grateful for everything.
Ah, to live as a grateful person because living in this state is a taste of heaven. Even if I were to live in a concrete jungle, I could at least stop for a moment, look up, and give thanks. I simply need to remind myself to glance upwards, above my little busy world and enjoy the sky. The sky alone is an extravagant present that continually fills me with the joy if I remember to take a break from my ‘important’ business to be grateful.
Every time we attend Mass, we are constantly reminded to give thanks to a Heavenly Father simply because life in, with and through Him is a joyful experience no matter what our situation.
The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means, first of all, ‘thanksgiving’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1360).
Copyright 2019 Melanie Jean Juneau