A Gift Worthy of Gratitude
BY BRENNA DAVIS | October 10, 2022
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.
What causes me to grow in gratitude is a sense that life is a gift. Each day is a gift from God. Each day we receive the graces necessary to live and love in His presence. Each day we grow deeper into a sense of gratitude by our willingness not to take amything for granted. Each day we can be more aware of the gift of the other. Recently, as I was evaluating teachers for their teaching, I received several thank you notes for taking the time and effort to do so. The notes were certainly heartfelf and full of where they would go with the direction I pointed out. Gratitude takes place from the giver and from the receiver. It is a mutual respect for the life and words of the other.
Receiving Holy Communion is God’s pouring out of gratitude in the Eucharist. With Jesus deeply embedded in our hearts we pour into the world hHis compassionate love. He makes us aware of the ordinary everyday issues we are grateful for: a smile, holding a door, carrying someone else’s packages, walking and talking with someone all in gratitude for the life of God within. Gratitude is a 24/7 disposition that carries us through the day with joy and perpetual thanksgivng for all of God’s gifts to us today.
As teh psalmist says: ” I thank my God whenever I think of you…”
Just now reflecting on “anyone lived in a pretty how town” by e. e. cummings that we studied in English class. I’m grateful to the Sisters of St. Joseph at Nazareth Academy and St. Bridget’s and the Franciscans at Presentation of the BVM for an education ranging from the practical to the whimsical to the spiritual.
Thank you so much for this lovely reflection. It’s important to be truly grateful for the abundance of blessings that we have, while remembering that we are far from our potential as a society (and also as individuals).
When things are seemingly impossible and then become possible, it is easy to give thanks. When all is swimmingly good, it is easy to forget God’s hand in our life plan. Those with the least to be thankful for in life are often those who put us to shame with their abundant daily gratitude to everyone they meet each day. So next time when submerged in a tunnel of darkness may I remember the blind man who could not speak, or eat because of a brain tumour, and yet till the day of his death was constantly grateful to all those who cared for him and all those who visited him.
Leprosy brings about numbness in fingers and toes causing damage to one’s sense of touch. In my on going field studies, my interlocutors come across as warm-hearted collaborators. Though several of them have lost their fingers, toes and their sense of touch, their hearts are not numb. So numbness of heart may be far more worse than anything else. Gratitude comes from a warm heart. Long live warm and grateful heart.