As we move toward the end of the calendar year many of us find ourselves shift to a more reflective state as we look back on the past year, express our gratitude for the things we have, and the hope for the year to come. The word gratitude comes from the Latin, gratus, which means thankful or pleasing. The word grace comes from that same root, and a grace is a gift from God. Gratitude is a taking stock of our gifts, which is central to the Ignatian paradigm – everything begins with gifts given. The Bible begins with the story of God’s act of creating the world. Any time God creates, God gives. Ignatius says in his Principle and Foundation that all created things are gifts from God, so we can live full lives that serve God and neighbour. And God is continually creating, which means God is constantly pouring out an abundance of gifts upon us!
Gratitude is having a keen recognition of the gifts, large and small, in our lives. When we can see the gifts, we can see the Giver. And then, we are moved to a response, our own act of outward love, an act of creating something new. Gratitude is a cyclical force of creative love that feeds itself, so long as gratitude flows. This is why intentional moments like the holiday of Thanksgiving is important. When we share the gift of a meal with loved ones we become immersed in the giftedness of life: food symbolising God’s generosity, our prayer of grace symbolising our gratitude, and the people around us symbolising the flow of creative love. The Thanksgiving table is not about petty arguments among family members, but about seeing the gift in one another, the God who loves each person regardless of their political ideology, their religious practice, or their weaknesses.
There is something transformative about gratitude. Naming what you’re thankful for not only transforms those gifts so you can see them anew, but transforms us. When Jesus encounters the ten lepers and cleanses them, only one returns and falls at Jesus’ feet and thanks him. The scripture says, “And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice.” He recognised the gift, and as a result of his expression of gratitude he was transformed. “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you,” Jesus tells him.
Gratitude reconciles us and opens our eyes to the divine goodness in all things: We have been loved. We feel beheld in love. And we can consider how the gifts in our lives have drawn us closer to God.
The Advent and Christmas seasons are a culmination of God’s creative giving. We experience a transformative new beginning, reminding us of the kind of fresh start God sought to give our hearts with the promise of the incarnation – the deepest of in-dwellings into our human being. In these seasons our hearts are more deeply transformed into Christ’s heart. That is salvation.
A blessing for you:
Bless the God of all,
who everywhere works great wonders,
who fosters our growth from birth,
and deals with us according to his mercy.
May he give us gladness of heart,
and may there be peace in our days
in Israel, as in the days of old.
May he entrust to us his mercy,
and may he deliver us in our days!
Listen to the podcast version of this post: