|"Graced Shores"/Sept. 2014 Port Renfrew/Catholic Sacristan|
I'm fairly certain that I am not alone when I observe that gratitude for a particular grace or event can easily evaporate at another encounter with adversity.
I always knew in my heart Walt Whitman's mind to be more like my own than any other man's living. As he is a very great scoundrel this is not a pleasant confession.—Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ.
The Discipline of Gratitude
When we know God loves us—and He most surely does!—we experience the freedom to act in ways that conform to His will. We are no longer afraid to lose our sinful ways that we may have formerly thought defined us and bound us to others with whom we shared a life without God. Illumined by grace, we become even more eager to shed the skin of sin that tries to cling to our souls.
Hope must be nourished by prayer that disposes us to God's grace, for without the Holy Spirit and the guidance of Holy Mother Church to help us grow in holiness, we will surely stray into a maze of confusion as to the actual state of our health and well being or lack thereof. Without the certainty provided by the Sacrament of Penance, confession, if you will, a christian may soon become lost in a maze of self doubt. Confession provides Catholics with the opportunity to know who we truly are and that we are truly and fully forgiven by God. The penance given by a priest is a precious gift to help us grow in holiness and put things right.
Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved. For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much.—James 5:16.
When gratitude is accompanied by an awareness of our utter dependence on God, then such gratitude is most assuredly authentic, and that should give one the hope to strive to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.Lasting gratitude, like faith, is a gift of God. We can and should pray for it. There are an embarrassment of riches to be gained when we surrender (crucify) our daily preoccupations with or attachments to selfish pursuits and instead put ourselves in a place to appreciate the glorious bounty of God's creation. Granted, if you live in a war zone, it would likely be a difficult prospect to find much natural beauty in the bombed out schools and hospitals, desecrated churches, blood-stained streets and denuded landscape of a place like Gaza (Mgr Shomali : “Hope still shines in the eyes of Gazans”/news&images) or Mosul. But, beauty and hope can always be found with the eyes and ears of faith! The heart oriented to gratitude, even in difficult times, can draw on memories of good things to stir in the mind and heart a view beyond an indecent moment or even prolonged agony.
Remembering the remnant or lingering memories of good things previously experienced allow the seeker to dwell, if only for a fraction of a moment, in hope. That moment, however, can mean the difference between life and death. Those memories of signs of God's grace once again activate in the soul a disposition to God's grace. If the seeker commits to following Christ in all things and offers up all sufferings to Jesus, fractions of hope-filled moments can build into a crescendo of hope that will be cause for gratitude. Recall the grace given to saints such as Maximilian Kolbe, grace from God that flowed through him to illuminate the hellish darkness of the concentration camp. Recall that St. Maximilian could embrace death with a saintly resolve because his heart was set in gratitude for Jesus' sacrifice for all men. Because we live in God-given gratitude for that salvation, we can look on the tortured figure of a man, Jesus Christ Who was both true God and true man, and see beauty,... and hope and God's Love supreme.