Some mornings as I wake up, a line from a favorite E.E. Cummings’ poem is the first thought that greets me: “I thank You God for most this amazing day.” While all of my morning thoughts are not always so Spirit-led, some days I experience the importance of an orientation to gratitude, which is the central message from Sunday’s gospel.
Ten lepers were healed but only one returned to give thanks to God. Jesus doesn’t seem like the type of person to need praise from people around him. His frustration at the lack of gratitude from the group suggests to me that he is more concerned about the hearts of people who don’t experience or express gratitude than being praised for his good deeds.
St. Ignatius, similarly, wrote in a letter that “ingratitude is one of the things most worthy of detestation” and that it is “the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.” I have a heartfelt knowledge that this is true in my own life. When I am not feeling particularly grateful, it is easy for me to become closed off from the needs of others and the world. For this reason, gratitude is at the center of the Examen, a prayer that Ignatius encouraged Jesuits to pray every day, even if they had no other time for prayer.
The author, Robin Will Kimmerer, explains the centrality of gratitude and the gift economy in Indigenous culture in a chapter of her book Braiding Sweetgrass. She writes, “Many of our ancient teachings counsel that whatever we have been given is supposed to be given away again,” and “Gifts from the earth or from each other establish a particular relationship, an obligation of sorts to give, to receive, and to reciprocate.”
In a similar way, each of our lives is a gift, worthy of gratitude. We did nothing to make ourselves exist in this world at this time in the particular place that we each find ourselves. If we consider our entire lives as a gift, how can we not feel called to “give away” the unique gifts that God has bestowed upon us, to build relationships, and to walk gently on the earth, all of which is also gift?
- What best helps you find an orientation of gratitude in life?
- Where can you use improvement or grow in gratitude in your life?
- Today we honor and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Make a commitment to mark this day by considering how the cultivation of gratitude can lead us to freely give to those around us.
Brenna Davis is director of Education for Justice and environmental initiatives for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She graduated from Boston College in 2010 and served in Cleveland as a Jesuit Volunteer. She previously taught theology, coached cross country, and served as main office coordinator at Saint Martin de Porres, Cleveland’s Cristo Rey High School. During her time there she was the self-proclaimed assistant to the director of facilities in all sustainability initiatives on campus. She is a certified spiritual director and a Cuyahoga County Master Recycler.