Sister Doreen’s Reflections
When the year reaches the beginning of October, we begin to feel a sense of completion and accomplishment, it is harvest-time. Words like readiness, maturity, nourishment – everything is ripe and ready to be picked! Amid all this harvesting it seems appropriate that we should pause from all that we are doing to celebrate a festival of gratitude: Thanksgiving, and this seems a good time to ponder a festival of gratitude, as we have just had a Thanksgiving long weekend!
A festival of gratitude – this made me begin to ponder the word gratitude, and Meister Eckhart, the German mystics comment: “If the only prayer you say in your entire life is “Thank you,” that would suffice.” As we move through life, experience teaches us to pause and ponder, to wait … and it is gratitude that causes us to look around carefully and to really see what is there and what is happening, and to appreciate those little things that have graced our lives. I find that gratitude can turn obstacles into opportunities, act like a messenger trying to tell us something. Obstacles can be opportunities to gain new understanding or new insights. It is gratitude that invites us to look for grace, to find possibilities, to explore the edges, to find growth.
In their book “The Circle of Life” Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr wrote is a wonderful meditation called “A Closer Look at Thanksgiving” in which there is a reflection that rings true in my own experience of life: how gratitude can turn obstacles into opportunities, can move us beyond entitlement and bemoaning our circumstances, and can open our eyes to the blessings of small things.
Joyce Rupp wrote:
“If you look at a sunset, you might see only the disappearance of daylight.
If you look beneath, you may see darkness opening the splendor of stars.
If you look at illness and disease, you might see only physical diminishment.
If you look beneath, you may see it as a teacher bringing you vital wisdom.
If you look at a broken relationship, you might see only a harsh ending.
If you look beneath, you may see the courageous seeds of new growth.
If you look at lost dreams, you might see only disappointment and doubt.
If you look beneath, you may see the stuff that new dreams contain.
If you look at the death of a loved one, you might see only pervasive sorrow.
If you look beneath, you may see that love lives on forever in the heart.
If you look at the planet’s pain and creatures’ woe, you might see only despair.
If you look beneath, you may see hope woven in the compassionate care of many.
If you look at yourself, you might see only tarnished unfinishedness.
If you look beneath, you may see your basic goodness shining there.
If you look for the divine being, you might see mostly unresolved questions.
If you look beneath, you may be astounded at the availability of divine love.
Thanksgiving is a time to look beneath our external lives for the unwavering love, the ceaseless peace, and the enduring strength that lie in the deep waters of our soul. The more we trust the ‘unknowable depths’ of our existence, the more the power of gratitude becomes a song we daily sing. It begs the questions: With what do you struggle today? What might lie beneath that struggle for which you can give thanks?”
On this festival of gratitude perhaps we could write a litany, kind of examin of consciousness that might look like this:
I want to be grateful for what is instead of always looking at what is not. What are a few things I am grateful for in my life?
I want to find the good in the difficult things of life without always trying to ignore or pretend the difficult things do not exist. How well am I doing this?
I want to be grateful for who I am today, not envying others. Who do I need to thank for helping me get where I am? Do I rejoice in my own self?
I want to find something to laugh about each day, especially on those days when there seems nothing to laugh about. What is my track record like?
I want to look for the good in others and their strengths and gifts rather than seeing their faults and weaknesses. Am I operating out of a criticism mode?
I want to be open to reconciling relationships. Who can I reach out to in order to renew a friendship? Who do I need to ask for forgiveness? And who do I need to forgive?
In a wonderful children’s book for those from the ages of 8 to 80 called “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, the boy and the mole are talking together, and the mole says, “one of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things”, and he goes on to say “Isn’t it odd. We can only see our outsides, but nearly everything happens on the inside.”
“He who forgets the language of gratitude can never be on speaking terms with happiness.” C. Neil Strait
“The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks we give ourselves.” David Steindl -Rast
Yes, it is good to pause and to celebrate this festival of gratitude: Thanksgiving is a season of transformation and surrender, thanks be to God.