The basic act of love for God is gratitude and praise to Him for all we have been given. And we can start today with tremendous gratitude for the gift of the Christ Child who was born in our world long ago and who continues to be born in us and to lead us in all that we are. So, amongst all the wrapping paper and the materialism of today, let us remember whose we are and why we are celebrating His birth.
Once we have acknowledged the centrality of Christ in our lives, once we can give up so much of the narrow lens through which we view our lives, we can begin to see what a gift we have been given to live on this earth.
First, we feel gratitude for the beauty of this world, the wonder of all creation, the enormity of the universe and the possibility of multiple universes: from the beauty of a rose bud to the mist rising off a lake, to the challenge of a mountain trek, to the infinite number of shades of greens in the natural world. There is gratitude that we—the plants and animals of the world—are ever-evolving creations. The plants go from seed to bud to blossom to fruit to blessing the earth with their dying parts. With animals we have a similar growth cycle from birth to death. But it is in the human being that all the evolution can be seen, or not, in the way we can grow and change as we age, in the way we can give up what doesn’t work for us and adopt new ways of thinking and being.
Here is how William A. Barry, SJ, writes about gratitude in “Here’s My Heart; Here’s My Hand: Living Fully in Friendship with God:” “Existence is a gift. If we do not accept this basic truth, and I mean accept it in our hearts and bones and flesh, we are living irrationally. The world and all of us who are in it exist by God’s gracious desire…Moreover, we are desired into existence because God want us, not because we are necessary to God. We are desired into existence so that we can freely accept God’s friendship, God’s love. To be human is to be created by God’s desire; and God desires our friendship.”
Secondly, with our worldly lenses cleaned and sparkling through our journeying with Christ, there would be gratitude for our life-long companions, our families and friends, new and old, who journey with us. It doesn’t mean that we get along with everyone, but that we can learn from any situation—positive or negative—and come to appreciate what this challenge or of that suffering or this person has meant to us, what we have learned from them. And what about the people who are so simpatico with us that we don’t have to explain anything to them, they just get us.
What about our co-workers who work along with us, cooperating and supporting? And even those who are “thorns in our side” until we come to peace with them, when we have gained a new perspective? What about the books we read, the lines that inspire us that we never forget? What about the models of human beings like Gandhi or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Martin Luther King and others who show us how to be in this world and be of God? What about the rare teachers who have inspired us to go beyond what we thought we were capable of? What about our communities and neighbors who help define us?
Thirdly, with Christ clearing out the blindness and deafness in us to His truth, there is God and all that He brings to our lives. First, the generosity of our creation, the known gifts and the ones to be revealed. The purpose He bestows on us, the people He asks us to help, the gifts He wants us to use. The healing we will experience and the lessons we will learn from that. That we were meant to lead fulfilled, purposeful, meaningful, full lives. There is the gift of the whole of creation. There is the gift of religion and spirituality, especially the gift of a deep relationship with Him. And what about the fact that God loves and forgives us!!!? And He wants us to bring in the kingdom here on earth? And He provides all our needs? And He loves us!
Fourthly, when we can see clearly what God’s intended purpose is for us in each moment because we are so attuned to the Holy Spirit, then we live in God’s presence, in the present moment. And we use our gifts and talents as we are called and that brings us great joy. Then we are living in the kingdom, connected to every other person and element of creation. And God is with us and we are totally aware of that. The challenges we all face are nothing to us, because Christ walks us through them. He carries the burdens for us. He leads us through all the moments of our lives.
Our gratitude to the Trinity, to God, to Christ, to the Holy Spirit, should have no bounds. And if we are grateful for our lives here on earth, it is so much easier to give them over to the One who gave them to us. And then there is nothing but praise and gratitude to God in our hearts.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I have a grateful heart, dedicated to God? What am I grateful for in my life? What am I not grateful for? What would I have to do to move to gratitude, to learn what I need to know from that person, that situation, so that it can just reside in the past, no longer eating away at me? Will I call on the Lord to help me get there?
Blessing for the week: May the Christ Child be born fully in each of us, fulfilling the promise of our creation.
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My book, “Exodus: Our Story, Too!” is available on amazon.com under my full name, Patricia Said Adams.