of the HEART
Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J
Table of Contents
“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” (Luke 17: 17-18) Ingratitude has been called “the most unkindest cut of all.” We can all strike our breast and say, “Mea culpa.” Being grateful does not come naturally. Parents are continually reminding their children to say, “Thank you!”
We like to think of ourselves as achievers. But the fact is that we are receivers more than achievers. We all started out as zero, zip, nada. I did not ask to be. I am an act of the will of God. My very existence is a gift of God. What am I anyway but a conglomeration of the gifts of God? What do I have that I have not received? My most basic relationship with God therefore should be one of gratitude. Yet it is so easy to fall in love with the gift and forget all about the Giver; to admire a painting and never think of the painter; to enjoy music and never know the heart from which it came; to accept ourselves and not to care where we came from. “Lord, give me a grateful heart.”
On another level I did not start out as zero, zip, nada. In fact, I did not start out at all, for all eternity I existed in the mind of God as one of an infinite number of possible beings, beings that possibly could be. God freely chose to create me. My parents did not know who I would be. But God knew exactly who I would be, and he wanted me. “You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.” So once again my most basic relationship with God is one of thanks. The first step on the road to salvation and the secret of great sanctity is gratitude. “Lord, give me a grateful heart.”
To help us to be thankful God gave us a memory so that we can remember and give thanks. The memory enables us to bring forth from the storeroom of the past the wonderful moments of success, love and happiness, so that we can re-live, re-enjoy them and be grateful. Unfortunately, we use it more often bring forth from the storeroom of the past the failures, fears and sorrows and to re-live and re-suffer them, and become discouraged. Even worse we develop spiritual amnesia; we forget our roots and we lose our identity. “Lord, give me a grateful heart.”
To remember and give thanks, that is what the Bible is all about. The Bible is the written history of many of the wonderful gifts God has given us from the very creation of the world and the promise of even greater gifts in the future. In the beginning it was handed on orally to each succeeding generation and then under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit written down so that all could remember and give thanks. “Lord, give me a grateful heart.”
To remember and give thanks, that is what the Mass is all about. The Mass is the perfect act of thanksgiving that Jesus commanded us to give, “Do this in memory of me.” It is the perfect sacrifice Malachi foretold which would be offered up from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof. “Lord, give me a grateful heart.”
To remember and give thanks, that is why we have a National Thanksgiving Day. We live in a country of plenty in a world of want, a land of religious and political freedom in a world of ethnic cleansing and zero tolerance, a land at peace in a world at war. Yet we have to set aside one day a year to remind us to give thanks to God. Yes, ingratitude is a universal human failing. “Lord, give me a grateful heart.”
To remember and give thanks, and in so doing to grow in the love of God. It is in gratitude for the gifts that we grow in the love of the Giver. As we say in the preface at Mass, “Our act of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness but makes us grow in grace through Jesus Christ, or Lord.” Gifts are the language of love, the more one loves the more one gives. Never has this language of gift-giving been spoken to me as God has spoken it to me. If God would not give me one gift more I should be grateful. But the best is yet to come. God will continue to look over me with His Divine Providence and then at the end of my life he will give me the greatest gift of all the gift of the Giver to be known, loved and possessed forever.
“Lord, give me a grateful heart,” so that I may always remember and give thanks, and in so doing grow in the love of You.
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