How Gratitude Equips Us for Many Other Virtues

The Gospel for Mass on Tuesday (of the third week of Lent) featured the parable of the servant who owed a large sum to the king that he could not repay. The generous and kind king forgave him the entire debt. Strangely, the man then proceeded to treat a fellow servant who owed him a small amount with severity. When the king learned of the servant’s behavior, he grew angry and sentenced him to the very punishment he had meted out to his debtor.

For our mid-Lent purposes, let’s consider the heart of the parable, for it is aimed at our hearts!

The Lord’s parable begins by describing a man who owes a huge amount, one that is completely beyond his ability to repay.

This man represents each one of us. The Greek text says that he owes ten thousand talents (μυρίων ταλάντων). This is a Jewish way of saying that this fellow owes a great deal of money, too much to be able to repay by working a little overtime or taking on an additional job; the situation is hopeless. This is our state before God. We have a debt of sin so high and so heavy that we can never hope to be rid of it on our own. I don’t care how many spiritual pushups we do, how many novenas, chaplets, and rosaries we pray, how often we go to Mass, how many pilgrimages we undertake, or how much we give to the poor. We can’t even make a noticeable dent in what we owe.

We really must get this through our thick skulls! We are in real trouble without Christ. The more we can grasp our profound poverty and understand that without Jesus Hell is our destination, the more we can appreciate the gift of what He has done for us. We are in big trouble; our situation is grave. There’s an old song that says, “In times like these, you need a savior.”

One day it will finally dawn on us that the Son of God died for us. When it does, our stone hearts will break, and love will pour in. With broken, humbled hearts, we will find it hard to hate anyone. In our gratitude we will gladly forgive those who have hurt us, even those who still hate us. With the new heart that the Lord can give us, we will forgive gladly, joyfully, and consistently out of gratitude and humility.

It is difficult to overstate how essential gratitude is for good mental, moral, spiritual, and emotional health. Grateful people are different people. They possess a joy that changes them, making them more joyful, confident, serene, generous, forgiving, and patient. It is hard to despise people when we are filled with grateful joy.

Apparently, this wicked servant never got in touch with his true poverty; he refused to experience the gift that he himself had received. As a result, his heart remained unbroken; it remained hard. Having experienced no mercy (though immense mercy had been extended to him) he was willfully ill-equipped to show mercy to others. Callously unaware of the unbelievable gift he had been given, he remained unchanged. In so doing and being, he was unfit for the Kingdom of God, which can only be entered by gladly receiving mercy.

Many Christians are like this. They go through their life unaware of their need for mercy or unappreciative of the fact that incredible mercy has been extended to them. Unaware, they are ungrateful. Ungrateful, their hearts are unbroken; no light or love has been able to enter. Hurt by others, they respond by hurting back, holding grudges, or growing arrogant and unkind. They lack compassion for or understanding of others and consider themselves superior to those whom they view as worse sinners than they are. They think that forgiveness is either a sign of weakness or something that only foolish people offer. They don’t get angry; they get even.

Beware. The Lord says that the measure we measure to others will be measured back to us. If we are wise, we realize that we are going to need a lot of grace and mercy to stand a chance before the holiness of God. The Lord makes it clear both in this parable and elsewhere that it is those who show mercy who will receive mercy (see also Matt 5:7; and James 2:13).

In order to show mercy, you must first receive it. Go every day to the foot of cross and be astonished at what the Lord has done for you. He forgave you a debt you can never repay, and He has given you myriad other graces and blessings as well. If you let this gratitude melt your heart, being merciful to others will be the (super)natural result, and even when rightly rebuking sin in others you will do so without smug superiority. You will do it in love and true mercy for the sinner and for the common good.

Grateful people are different. Be different!

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: How Gratitude Equips Us for Many Other Virtues

Gratitude is More than an Attitude; It is a Discipline

There is perhaps no greater benefit to mental health than gratitude. Grateful people are different. They are more joyful, for gratitude is a form of joy. They are more generous, kind, patient, forgiving, confident, and trusting.

Gratitude is a discipline of the mind wherein we commit to counting our blessings every day and expressing thanks to God. Our blessings are countless and our burdens, though real, are far fewer and of a passing nature. Consider the following meditation from St. Gregory of Nazianzen:

What benefactor has enabled you to look out upon the beauty of the sky, the sun in its course, the circle of the moon, the countless number of stars, with the harmony and order that are theirs, like the music of a harp? Who has blessed you with rain, with the art of husbandry, with different kinds of food, with the arts, with houses, with laws, with states, with a life of humanity and culture, with friendship and the easy familiarity of kinship?

Who has given you dominion over animals, those that are tame and those that provide you with food? Who has made you lord and master of everything on earth? In short, who has endowed you with all that makes man superior to all other living creatures? (Oratio 14, De Pauperum amore, 23-25)

Indeed, it is God who gives all this and so much more, things seen and unseen, known and unknown.

Our flesh is wired for negativity and looks about warily for threats. But we are not debtors to the flesh to live according to its promptings (Romans 8:12). Thus, in obedience to our spirit, we must cultivate gratitude rooted in wonder and awe at what God has done and continues to do for us. If we do not, we easily become fearful and stingy; our mental and emotional health quickly deteriorates.

When was the last time you really counted your blessings? When was the last time you looked about in wonder and awe and just sighed, saying, “Thank you, Lord; you have done so much for me that I cannot tell it all”?

Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard:  Gratitude is More than an Attitude – It is a Discipline

Ten Thousand Thanks Could Never Be Enough – A Meditation on the Astonishing Depth of Every Gift

Blog-07-26In developing gratitude, we do well to remember how intertwined our lives are. None of us lives in isolation—none of us can. We may think we’re pretty self-sufficient, but we drive on roads that others built and paid for, and we do so in cars developed and built by others. We use electricity powered by coal that others mined, converted to power in power plants we neither built nor run, and delivered to us over wires that others set in place and maintain. Thousands of people stand behind that little light switch we so causally flip.

Think, too, of all the collective knowledge from which we benefit. It stretches back over the generations, one discovery building on another, one insight shared bringing about another, one discipline serving as a foundation for yet another.

It is overwhelming to consider the astonishing number of other human beings whose collective ingenuity and hard work contribute to our present blessings. And we, too, contribute to the blessings of countless others.

For all this we can praise God, from whom all blessings first come. But the vast majority of the blessings He gives us come through others. Bless God, the first giver, but also be grateful to those who are the means of His blessings.

As a small exercise in gratitude, consider the simple blessing of standing in a supermarket and holding a can of peas. How many thousands are behind that can and your ability to stand in that market and buy it for just a dollar or so.

As you look at the can itself, consider the following:

Miners went into the earth to bring out the aluminum and tin you hold in your hand. Not only is it difficult work, it also depends on countless others going back in time who “discovered” the raw materials of the earth and learned how to separate and use them. Numerous technologies, much machinery, many inventors, and millennia of experience support the miners who drew the raw materials forth for that can. Thank you!

Those materials were then transported by rail. Consider those who labored to build the rails and those who still maintain them. Think about the inventors of the locomotive, those who built the railroad cars, and the those who extracted and refined the diesel fuel for the locomotive, and all those helped to get the ore to the metal producing plants. Thank you!

Consider the inventors of the process, those who built and maintain the plants that refine and produce the aluminum and tin that then go to the canneries by truck or rail. Thank you!

At the cannery, people and machines labored to produce the can you hold. Technologies and processes stretching back generations contribute to the swift production of the cans, including the one you hold. Thank you!

The canning plant is supplied with electricity that required thousands of men to erect poles and towers, run wires, and maintain them. Those wires trace back to a power plant with all of its technologies. Think of all who labored to build and maintain that plant. Coal miners went deep in the earth to mine the coal that sits in rail cars outside the power plant that supplies the power to the cannery that produced the can you hold. Thank you!

Yes, thousands contributed intellectual effort, physical labor, and money to make possible and to bring to you the can you now hold. Thank you!

Now consider the peas in that can:

The peas in the can are surely a gift of God’s nature, but are also the result of God’s gift of human genius. The bountiful crops of the modern era, a small portion of which you now hold in your hand, showcase human ingenuity in horticulture and agriculture. Careful genetic selection has made peas larger, tastier, and more disease- and insect-resistant. Agricultural developments have also led to crop yields that were unimaginable just decades ago. Fertilizers, insecticides, irrigation, crop rotation, farm equipment, and all the subspecialties and industries that developed and support them, have assisted in bringing to harvest the peas in that can you hold in your hand. Thank you!

What about the thousands who did research and development in the fields of horticulture and agriculture? We must also thank the farmers and agricultural workers, most of whom rise early every day and work in all sorts of inclement weather. They assume risks for failed crops and bad weather. They often find that their is a very fine line between success and failure, and their livelihood depends on staying on the right side of that line. Sadly, many farm hands and harvesters earn poor wages for their hard work. Yes, farmers and farm hands work hard. Thank you!

The peas also needed transportation, to the canneries and other processing areas. Once again, thank the builders of the roads and those who design, build, and maintain the trucks. Thank the truck drivers who often spend long, lonely hours on the road. Yes, thousands upon thousands, going back generations, have had a hand in the product you hold in your hand. Thank you!

Finally, consider the supply chain that brought this product to your local store:

Every store has a staff who order, stock, and monitor supplies so that necessary products are not out of stock. Scanners network with computers and point-of-sale terminals to monitor and order products. Be thankful for the developers of such technology. Thank you!

The store you are in was built by the construction industry and paid for by the owners of the food stores, who assume risk and overhead costs to run the stores. All sorts of technologies are involved from refrigeration to lighting, from shelving systems to product selection and quality control. Even the parking lot needs maintenance. Dozens of employees at the local store have had hand in that can of peas. Thank you!

Beyond the store are the local truckers, the warehouse employees, and every aspect of the warehouse from its buildings to its maintenance and operation. Hundreds more people have thus had a hand in this miraculous little can of peas. Thank you!

Beyond the warehouse is a complete distribution system for every product imaginable. Some products are transported over land by truck and/or train. Others are brought on cargo planes from every part of the world. All of these products need containers, shipping boxes, and all sorts of handling. Consider all the infrastructure necessary to maintain and supply those industries. Yes, thousands of people have had a hand in that can of peas. Thank You!

I have only scratched the surface here of the astonishing number of people who stand behind a small blessing: a can of peas in a supermarket. It is beyond amazing how interconnected our lives are. Thank the Lord; thank the laborers. Do your part and never forget your dependency on God and on your need for others. Ten thousand thanks could never be enough.

For all you do for me, thank you!

Some Thoughts to Help Deepen Gratitude

Thanksgiving_11-25True gratitude is a grace, or gift, from God. It proceeds from a humble and transformed heart. In such a case we do not render thanks merely because it is polite or expected, or because God commands it, but because it naturally flows from a profound experience of gratitude. The “command” of Scripture to give thanks is not a moralism, but a truth and a description of what flows from a transformed heart.

Thus, an anointing to seek from God is the powerful transformation of our intellect and our heart so that we become deeply aware of the remarkable gift that is everything we have. As this awareness deepens so does our gratitude and joy at the “magnificent munificence” of our God. Everything—literally everything—is a gift from God.

Permit me a few thoughts on the basis for a deepening awareness of gratitude. Ultimately, gratitude is a grace, but having a deeper awareness of its intellectual basis can help to open us more fully to this gift.

  1. We are contingent beings who depend on God for our very existence. He holds together every fiber of our being: every cell and every part of every cell, every molecule and every part of every molecule, every atom and every part of every atom. God facilitates every function of our body: every beat of our heart, the functioning of every organ, and the movement of our body. God sustains every intricate detail of the world in which we live: the perfectly designed orbit of our planet so that we neither boil nor freeze; the magnetic shield that protects Earth from harmful aspects of solar radiation; and every intricate process of our planet, solar system, galaxy, and universe. All of this, including us, is sustained by God and provided for by Him. The depth, height, length, and width of what God does is simply astonishing. And He does it all free of charge. As we ponder such goodness and providence we are helped to be more grateful. All is gift.
  2. Every good thing you or I do is a gift from God. St. Paul says, What have you that you have not received? And if you have received, why do you glory as though you had achieved? (1 Cor 4:7). Elsewhere he writes, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:8-10). Hence even our good works are not our gift to God; they are His gift to us. On Judgment Day we cannot say to God, “Look what I’ve done, you owe me Heaven.” All we can say is “Thank you! All is gift!”
  3. Gifts sometimes come in strange packages. There are some gifts of God that don’t seem like gifts at all. There are sudden losses, tragedies, and natural disasters. In such moments it is easy to feel forsaken by God, and gratitude is probably the last thing on our mind. But here, too, Scripture bids us to look more closely: And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). We don’t always know how, but even in difficult moments God is making a way unto something good. He is paving a path unto glory, perhaps through the cross, but unto glory. Jesus has said to us, But I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. On that day you will have no more questions to ask me (Jn 16:22-23). Yes, even in our difficulties we are more than conquerors (Rm 8:37) because the Lord can write straight with crooked lines and make a way out of no way. All is gift!
  4. Yes, all is gift. Absolutely everything is a gift. If we are in Christ, then even our failures are a gift, for we can learn from them and they can teach us humility. For what shall we give thanks? For everything! All is gift!
  5. There is an old saying, Justice is when you get what you deserve. Mercy is when you don’t get what you deserve. Grace is when you get what you don’t deserve. Like you, I get asked a dozen times a day, “How are you?” I have trained myself to answer, “More blessed than I deserve.” Yes, all is gift.
  6. Finally, the word “thanks” in English is unfortunately abstract. In Latin and the romance languages, the word for “thanks” is far more closely tied to the notions of grace and gifts. In Latin one says, “Thank you” by saying, Gratias ago tibi,” or simply, Gratias.” Although gratias is translated as “thanks,” it is really the same word that is translated as “grace” or “gift” (gratia). Hence when one receives a gift one exclaims, “Grace!” or “Gift!” It is the similar with the Spanish Gracias and Italian Grazie. Thank you in French is Merci, which comes from the Latin merces, meaning something that has been paid for or given freely. All these languages display the giftedness underlying everything for which we are grateful. The English word “thanks” does not quite make the connection. About the closest we get are the related words gratitude and grateful. All of these words (gratias, gracias, grazie, merci, and gratitude) teach us that everything is a gift!

Ultimately, gratitude is a gift to be received from God. We ought to ask for it humbly. We can dispose ourselves to it by reflecting on things such as those discussed above, but ultimately gratitude comes from a humble, contrite, and transformed heart. Saying “thank you” is not a moralism. True gratitude is a grace, a gift that comes from a heart deeply moved, astonished, and aware of the fact that all is gift.

Do Not Forget the Works of the Lord – A Meditation on Fear, as Seen in a Short Cartoon

101014There was a moment in Peter’s life when he faced a choice to focus on either the storm or the Lord. It is in the memorable Gospel story in which Peter was walking on the water toward Jesus. As the Gospel recounts,

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink (Mt 14:30).

It is so difficult for us. We seem wired for the negative, wired to be anxious, doubtful, on the alert for any danger. It takes great faith to keep our sights focused on the Lord, who alone can save us and will save us if we trust in Him. But too easily the world, the flesh, and the devil seek to steal our serenity and snatch from us our ability to see God. And losing that ability, whether through careless neglect or weakness, we are overwhelmed by the fears of the world that loom large. SO often our loss of the sight of God has us frantically running about wondering what to do. Scripture says,

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust shall be your strength. But this you did not will. “No,” you said, “Upon horses we will flee.” Very well, you shall flee! “Upon swift steeds we will ride.” Very well, but not as swift as your pursuers! (Is 30:15–17)

Scripture further warns,

  • For you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge (Is 17:10).
  • You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth (Dt 32:18–19).
  • But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel (Ps 106:13).

Indeed, do not forget the works of the Lord!

I thought of these things as I watched this little cartoon. It features an astronaut of sorts. He is in a threatening place, alone in orbit high above the earth. But he has a picture of his beloved, likely his wife, and this consoles him. He struggles to keep his eyes on his beloved as his fears grow. He loses his connection with her as the warning bells sound and he rushes about in a panic. Finally, his fears wholly snatch his beloved from his sight and his fears overwhelm him.

And this is a picture of us, too, who so easily allow our fears to sever our connections with our Father in Heaven. How quickly our fears, elicited by the world, the flesh, and the devil, snatch away our connection with God. And then our fears loom large, overwhelming us.

Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Some thoughts to help deepen our gratitude.

112713True gratitude is a grace, or gift from God which proceeds from a humble and transformed heart. In such a case we do not render thanks merely because it is polite or expected, or because God commands it, but because it naturally flows from a profound experience of gratitude. The “command” of Scripture to give thanks is not a moralism, but a truth and description of a transformed heart.

Thus, an anointing to seek from God is a powerful transformation of our intellect and heart wherein we become deeply aware of the remarkable gift that everything we have really is. As this awareness deepens so does our gratitude and joy at the “magnificent munificence” of our God. Everything, literally everything, is a gift from God.

Permit a few thoughts on the basis for a deepening awareness of gratitude. Ultimately gratitude is a grace, but having a deeper awareness of the intellectual basis for it can help to open us more fully to this gift.

1. We are contingent beings who depend on God for our very existence. He holds together every fiber of our being: every cell, every part of a cell, every molecule, every part of a molecule, every atom, every part of an atom. God facilitates every function of our body: every beat of our heart, every organ and movement of our body. God sustains every intricate detail of this world in which we live: the perfectly designed orbit of this planet so that we do not cook or freeze, the magnetic shield around the planet that protects us from harmful aspects of solar radiation, every intricate visible and hidden process of this earth, solar system, galaxy and universe. All of this, and us, are contingent and thus sustained by God and provided for by Him. The depth, height, length and width of what God does is simply astonishing. And he does it all free of charge. As we ponder such goodness and providence we are helped to be more grateful. All is gift.

2. Every good thing you or I do is a gift from God. St. Paul says, What have you that you have not received. And if you have received, why do you glory as though you had achieved? (1 Cor 4:7). Elsewhere he writes, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:8-10). Hence even our good works are not our gift to God, they are His gift to us. And on judgment day we cannot say to God, Look what I have done, you owe me heaven; All we can say on that day is Thank You! All is gift!

3. Gifts in strange packages – There are some gifts of God that do not seem like gifts. There are sudden losses, tragedies, natural disasters and the like. In such moments we can feel forsaken by God, and gratitude is the last thing on our mind. But here too, Scripture bids us to look again: And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28). We don’t always know how, but even in difficult moments God is making a way unto something good, something better. He is paving a path to glory, perhaps through the cross, but unto glory. For now we may have questions but Jesus has said to us: But I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. On that day you will have no more questions to ask me. (Jn 16:22-23). Yes, even in our difficulties we are more than conquerors (Rm 8:37) because the Lord can write straight with crooked lines, and make a way out of no way. All is gift!

4. Yes, all is gift. Absolutely everything is gift. Even our failures, if we are in Christ and learn from them and they teach us humility. For what shall we give thanks? Everything! All is gift!

5. There is an old saying: Justice is when you get what you deserve. Mercy is when you don’t get what you deserve. grace is when you get what you don’t deserve. I like you get asked a dozen times a day, “How are you doing?” I have trained myself to often answer, “More blessed than I deserve.” Yes, All is gift.

6. Finally, the work “Thanks” in English is unfortunately abstract. But in the Latin and the Romance Languages, the word for “thanks” is far more tied to the fact of grace and gift. In Latin one says thank you as gratias ago tibi, or simply, gratias. Now gratias is translated as “thanks” But it is really the same word as “grace” and “gift” which in Latin is rendered gratia. Hence when one receives a gift they thus exclaim: “Grace!” or “Gifts!” It is the same with Spanish: Gracias and Italian: ‘Grazie. French has a slightly different approach but also less abstract than English, when it says Thank you as Merci which is rooted in the Latin merces, meaning something that has been paid for or given freely. So all these languages vividly record the giftedness that underlies everything for which we are grateful. The English word “thanks” does not quite make the connections. About the closest we get are the words, gratitude and grateful. And again all these words (gratias, gracias, grazie, merci, gratitude) teach us that all is gift!

To be grateful is ultimately a gift to be be received from God. We ought to humbly ask for it. We can dispose our self to it by reflecting on things like that above but ultimately gratitude comes from a humble, contrite and transformed heart. Saying thank you is not a moralism. True gratitude is a grace, a gift that comes from a heart deeply moved, astonished and aware of the fact that all is gift.

Complaint Department That Way –> (200 miles). A Brief Meditation on our Tendency to Complain

It is amazing how easily and quickly we complain. Although I think this tendency is probably ingrained in the fallen version of our human nature, I think in modern times we have become the biggest complainers of all.

This is largely because we have come to expect that everything is supposed to be peachy and work instantly. And if it does not we are not only indignant, some of us even talk of lawsuits. Let the slightest thing go wrong, and we are so easily sullen and resentful, “How dare I have to suffer inconvenience, or wait, or that something is not in immediate supply.” Our high expectations easily breed resentment and anger.

I suppose in some ways it is just silly, but the more embarrassing and even dark aspect of it is when we compare the trivial things we have to suffer in the modern West, to the real suffering of others. While I vent over the fact that I had to reboot my stupid computer (again!), there is a very poor woman in a war-torn region wondering which end of the potato she and her children will have for lunch, and which end for dinner, and that is all they have. I wince and in my pathetic lack of patience and cry out, “Lord make me more grateful and generous!”

St. Paul, in yesterday’s (Sunday) epistle links gratitude and joy: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks (1 Thess 5:16). Paul said something similar is Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:4-7)

It’s just so important to cultivate a deep gratitude to God for all that we have. We are so very blessed. It is just downright silly and embarrassing how quickly we complain. And because we are ungrateful, our hearts lose their joy, we become negative, sullen, bored and just plain irritating. Would that we would cultivate gratitude more, we might be a more joyful culture, appreciative of live.

When I, like most children, would complain my father would often say to me, “Listen, you’re just spoiled. You better thank your lucky stars you weren’t born a hundred years ago. In the old days things were tough all over!” And frankly, they were tough, (and still are in many parts of the world). Before 1900, the things we take wholly for granted, and would not dream of living without, were all but unknown: hot and cold running water, indoor toilets, electricity, air conditioning, cars, spacious homes, lots of privacy, telephones, T.Vs, radios, and every form of electronic gadgetry.

We are blessed beyond measure. Again, as my father often said, “We don’t know how good we have it.”

In recent years the Lord has really put it on my heart to be more grateful. I spend a greater part of my personal prayer just resting in gratitude for God’s graces, and the endless blessings he bestows. Such a prayer discipline not only gives me greater joy, but has also helped me to be more generous and concerned for the poor. God has been so good to me and I have much for which to be grateful.

Somehow I am sure my earthly father, now deceased, would be pleased to hear this. One of his life-lessons has really struck home with me. 21st century America has its annoyances, but they are nothing like what our ancestors endured, neither are they close to the burdens others in this world currently endure. For all our blessings, we ought to give thanks, sing praise, and share generously with those who have real burdens, things really worth complaining about.

This video is a wonderfully funny video by a comedian who laughs with us at our tendency to complain about the littlest things in the presence of miracles. You may have seen the video (it has 8 million hits) but I have taken it here and edited out a few (mild) profanities. I hope you’ll have time to watch this brief video, it’s a real hoot, with a powerful message, as a mirror, of sorts, is held up before us.

On The Grace of Gratitude – A Thanksgiving Meditation

One of the dangers in presenting New Testament moral teaching is that the preacher or teacher risks reducing the Gospel to a moralism. In other words the moral truth that is proclaimed is reduced merely to another rule that I am supposed to keep out of my own flesh power. This is an incorrect notion since, for a Christian, the moral life is not achieved, it is received. The moral life is not an imposition, it is a gift from God.

In the Gospel chosen for the American Holiday of Thanksgiving we have the familiar story of the ten lepers who are healed by Jesus and only one returns to thank Him. This fact of the ingratitude of the other nine prompts an irritable response by Jesus who more than suggests that they should also have returned to give thanks. Now if we just read this Gospel on the surface we can come away merely with a moralism that we should do a better job about being thankful to God and others. Well, OK. But simply having another rule or being reminded of a rule that already exists isn’t really the Gospel, it’s just a rule or an ethic of polite society.

Where the Gospel, the Transformative Good News exists, is to receive from God a deeply grateful heart so that we do not merely say thank you, but we are actually and deeply moved with gratitude. We are not merely being polite or justly rendering a debt of obligation to say “thanks”  we actually ARE grateful from the heart. True gratitude is a grace, or gift from God which proceeds from a humble and transformed heart. In such a case we do not render thanks merely because it is polite or expected, but because it naturally flows from a profound experience of gratitude. This is the Gospel, not a moralism, but a truth of a transformed heart.

Thus, an anointing to seek from God is a powerful transformation of our intellect and heart wherein we become deeply aware of the remarkable gift that everything we have really is. As this awareness deepens so does our gratitude and joy at the “magnificent munificence” of our God. Everything, literally everything, is a gift from God.

Permit a few thoughts on the basis for a deepening  awareness of gratitude. Ultimately gratitude is a grace, but having a deeper awareness of the intellectual basis for it can help to  open us more fully to this gift.

1. We are contingent beings who depend on God for our very existence. He holds together every fiber of our being: every cell, every part of a cell, every molecule, every part of a molecule, every atom, every part of an atom. God facilitates every function of our body: every beat of our heart, every organ and movement of our body. God sustains every intricate detail of this world in which we live: the perfectly designed orbit of this planet so that we do not cook or freeze, the magnetic shield around the planet that protects us from harmful aspects of solar radiation, every intricate visible and hidden process of this earth, solar system, galaxy and universe. All of this, and us, are contingent and thus sustained by God and provided for by Him. The depth, height, length and width of what God does is simply astonishing. And he does it all free of charge. As we ponder such goodness and providence we are helped to be more grateful. All is gift.

2. Every good thing you or I do is a gift from God. St. Paul says, What have you that you have not received. And if you have received, why do you glory as though you had achieved? (1 Cor 4:7). Elsewhere he writes, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:8-10). Hence even our good works are not our gift to God, they are His gift to us. And on judgment day we cannot say to God, "Look what I have done, you owe me heaven." All we can say on that day is “Thank You!”  All is gift!

3. Gifts in strange packages – There are some gifts of God that do not seem like gifts. There are sudden losses, tragedies, natural disasters and the like. In such moments we can feel forsaken by God, and gratitude is the last thing on our mind. But here too, Scripture bids us to look again: And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28). We don’t always know how, but even in difficult moments God is making a way unto something good, something better. He is paving a path to glory, perhaps through the cross, but unto glory. For now we may have questions but Jesus has said to us: But I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. On that day you will have no more questions to ask me. (Jn 16:22-23). Yes, even in our difficulties we are more than conquerors (Rm 8:37) because the Lord can write straight with crooked lines, and make a way out of no way. All is gift!

4. Yes, all is gift. Absolutely everything is gift. Even our failures, if we are in Christ and learn from them and they teach us humility. For what shall we give thanks? Everything! All is gift!

5. There is an old saying: Justice is when you get what you deserve. Mercy is when you don’t get what you deserve. grace is when you get what you don’t deserve. I like you get asked a dozen times a day, “How are you doing?” I have trained myself to often answer, “More blessed than I deserve.” Yes, All is gift.

6. Finally, the work  “Thanks” in English is unfortunately abstract. But in the Latin and the Romance Languages, the word for “thanks”  is far more tied to the fact of grace and gift. In Latin one says thank you as gratias ago tibi, or simply, gratias.  Now gratias is translated as “thanks” But it is really the same word as “grace” and “gift” which in Latin is rendered  gratia. Hence when one receives a gift they thus exclaim: “Grace!” or “Gifts!”  It is the same with Spanish: Gracias and Italian: ‘Grazie. French has a slightly different approach but no less abstract when it says Thank you as Merci which is rooted in the Latin merces, meaning something that has been paid for or given freely. So all these languages vividly record the giftedness that underlies everything for which we are grateful. The English word “thanks” does not quite make the connections. About the closest we get are the words, gratitude and grateful. And again all these words (gratias, gracias, grazie, merci, gratitude) teach us that all is gift!

To be grateful is ultimately a gift to be be received from God. We ought ot humbly ask for it. We can dispose our self to it by reflecting on things like that above but ultimately gratitude comes from a humble, contrite and transformed heart. Saying thank you is not a moralism. True gratitude is a grace, a gift that comes from a heart deeply moved, astonished and aware of the fact that all is gift.