The less you have, the more you probably appreciate it. That may seem obvious, but remains a point worth pondering.
Parishioners I served in the Dominican Republic lived in dire poverty, scratching a hard existence from the soil, subsisting on few resources of food and medical care, having few options of education or upper mobility.
Materially, they were the poorest people I had ever met but were also the most grateful, thanking God for the smallest of things and willing to share the little they had generously with others.
Contrast their experience with so many individuals in our country who have everything money could buy, but do not appreciate it and seem not very happy.
When I was a child, my brothers and I each usually received one gift for Christmas.
Because there was only one present each year, I can distinctly remember them all.
A Johnny West action figure in third grade, a King Arthur’s Castle set in fourth, the board game of Stratego in fifth grade.
I appreciated and played with each one for a long time. The power of the one thing.
Contrast my Christmases past with the experience of children today, who often receive so many gifts, they cannot possibly appreciate them all or even play with them.
I have been blessed to know and love individuals who live with either leprosy, blindness, cancer, paralysis, or disabilities, and yet have triumphed in the power of the Holy Spirit over their difficult limitations. Refusing to feel sorry for themselves, they have come to a place of acceptance and even joy in their sufferings.
I contrast them with my own ingratitude and indifference to the many blessings of health and prosperity I enjoy. The less you have, often the more grateful you are.
Anytime you are tempted to feel sorry for yourself, go to a hospital, a nursing home, or a homeless shelter. It’s the best therapy in the world.
Thanksgiving to God
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, our hearts turn to the Lord of the feast who has poured so many graces and gifts into our lives.
As Christians, our thanksgiving to God is so vast and expansive that it cannot be contained to the fourth Thursday of November, because the Lord’s goodness to us is so overwhelming; our posture of gratitude is a whole way of life.
Not accidentally, our main action as Catholics is the celebration of the Eucharist, a word that means “thanksgiving” in ancient Greek.
I am grateful for a veritable cornucopia of blessings this year! Nourishing food, a warm bed, health to flourish and do my work, books to read, family and friends who fill my life with love, and then I ponder the spiritual gifts.
Jesus Christ and His promise of forgiveness and salvation, the wonder of being in the Catholic Church, the graces of the sacraments, the opportunity to lead, love, and help others find the Lord in their lives.
The privilege of being here in the Diocese of Madison with the priests, Religious, deacons, lay leaders, and lay faithful that we have is a wonder to behold.
Above all is the astounding fact that Jesus traded His life for mine on the cross so that I could live forever.
The gift and mystery of my life is a glorious invitation for me to enter into the very heart of God.
What are you thankful for?
What is on your Thanksgiving list this year? What are you particularly grateful for?
Problems can easily cloud this perspective of life as a gift so that at times all we can see is what is wrong, what we do not have, or how things should be different.
Because of our fallen nature, we often give more energy to what is broken rather than what is going right, look at the problems rather than the opportunities, tend to write more letters of complaint than missives of praise.
We know that the world will eventually break our hearts with pain and sorrow, but Christ has gained the victory for us and faith lifts up our perspective to a lofty height.
When we stand with Christ, we come to see our sufferings, obstacles, and difficulties within the vast panorama of God’s perspective, as moments of grace and surrender, and then our hearts can still erupt in worship, praise, and gratitude, even when we are carrying the cross.
I love the simplicity of Thanksgiving. Christmas certainly has its own beauty, but there is something to be said for a holiday with no gifts to buy, no lights to string up, and hopefully not a lot of stress.
A quiet day spent with family and friends, where we can gather both at the table of the Eucharist and our own domestic table, bowing our heads and lifting our hearts to God who has poured such abundant graciousness into our lives.
Gratitude saves us from self-pity, anger, envy, sadness, and accusations. Gratefulness urges us to forget about our complaints and get on with the praise.
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