The Absolute Necessity of Gratitude for the Spiritual Life
I remember a couple of years ago, I was watching a late-night talk show, and a celebrity guest (I can’t remember who, or even which show I was watching) commented about a recent experience on an airplane. The flight attendant announced that the airline was now offering Wi-Fi internet connection in flight. The comedian indicated that everyone was excited about this new service that they weren’t expecting. Within about fifteen minutes, the passenger next to him began to complain that the connection was too slow. The man said his immediate reaction was something like “Well, do you know there is a signal that is shot into outer space that a satellite is trying to bounce back to this plane, not to mention the fact that 20 minutes ago you didn’t even know this service existed!” This story is very telling of our society. In this world of instant gratification, we have become extremely entitled.
“Entitled” is an attribute that many like to affix to younger generations. However, I do believe that if we are entirely honest with ourselves, we will find that we all have a sense of entitlement. Even in the Church it seems that more and more people have a consumer expectation that the Church exists to serve them. Where instead all of us, clergy and laity alike, should be asking: How can I serve the Church?
I truly believe that this attitude of entitlement comes from the detriment we suffer in lacking the virtue of gratitude. Scripture tells us “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes. 5:16-29). As disciples of Jesus Christ, gratitude is something we must cultivate, for every moment is grace, and everything around us is a gift from God’s providence to us. We need to – pardon the cliché – cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.” We need to learn to constantly be thankful for all that we have received from the Lord, as was the cleansed leper who returned to thank Jesus in the gospel we hear proclaimed this week.
Here are some practical ways we can begin to remember gratitude:
- Revive the lost art of “Thank you” notes. I am terrible at this myself, but we need to recognize that if someone took the time to be generous to us, the least we can do is take the time to write a small note thanking them.
- Count our blessings. We should all take time at the close of every day to thank God for what he has given to us. When was the last time we really expressed gratitude for the small things in life: the food we eat, the air we breathe, the comforts of home, etc.? Let’s express gratitude to the Lord for all that he provides us with every day.
- Thank your loved ones for being who they are. I am humbled to have in my life someone who does this. Occasionally I receive a text from Fr. Luis that says: “Thank you for being YOU.” What a blessing! How often do we thank the people we see every day just for being who they are with their everyday gifts and talents.
- Thank people who provide you service, even if you pay for it. Not only the person who hands you coffee, but what about law enforcement officers, airport security, cashiers, teachers, co-workers, and others who spend their lives serving others, often without any thanks.
- Lastly, we need to remember that we are lost without God’s grace. He is the one that guides and sustains us. “Eucharist” literally means “thanksgiving”, because we are grateful to God our Father for the salvation he has given us in Christ our Savior. The thanksgiving of the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, makes present on our Altars, the saving act of Jesus Christ, given to us again and again.
From here moving forward, let’s make an effort to be like the exceptional leper in the gospel today and rejoice in what we receive from the Lord, and return to give him thanks.