Live with Gratitude
God loves us and has a plan for us
Susan Kehoe Comments Off on Live with Gratitude
On a New Year’s Eve many years ago — at the start of a new decade — I was rejoicing that this new decade was just beginning. Good riddance to decennium horribilis. My favorite deacon was having none of it. He reminded me that while it had been a decade of struggle and hardship, it was not one without blessings. We had been blessed with the birth of five grandchildren, for example. Be grateful was the message.
Gratitude. I was reminded that my prayers should always begin with praising God and giving thanks. As St. Paul said, “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5:18). Each of us was created into existence by God’s love for us. A love so profound that God the Son became a human being, and he died on the cross to free us from the slavery of sin. We belong to Christ.
Still, giving thanks to God is often hard. We live in a fallen world. We find it hard to be thankful amid suffering. Pope Benedict XVI once said that our hearts should always be open, in spite of our problems, to seeing the beauty and goodness of God’s creation.
But we can only live in gratitude if we live in hope and trust in God even when things go wrong. Advent is the season that reminds us that God has not deserted us. Jesus came to visit us, and he will come again. Christians are not orphans; he is still present in the Eucharist. We receive Christ in the bread and wine in deep gratitude to God.
In Advent, we await the feast of Christmas. The second person of the Trinity crashes through his own creation to redeem us. Liturgical feasts are preceded by periods of preparation and fasting. “Advent also includes an element of penance in the sense of preparing, quieting, and disciplining our hearts for the full joy of Christmas” (USCCB website).
The liturgical season also reflects the ups and downs of our lives. Life often seems to be a long trek through the desert. Therefore, we often do not feel like feasting. This came home to me early in July of this year as my husband and I prepared to celebrate 50 years of holy matrimony.
We had a conflict with a family member that caused us great heartbreak. For a time, we did not feel like celebrating. But after much discussion and prayer, we came to acceptance and peace and placed it in God’s hands. We recognized that we have much to be thankful for; our life together has been blessed in good times and bad.
We decided to celebrate. Our marriage was blessed during Mass, and then we feasted with good friends on good food and wine. It was a joyous occasion despite our sorrow. It made me reflect on the wedding feast that God has waiting for us in heaven. But we will only be invited if we persevere in holiness and trust God through thick and thin.
It is easy to fall into despair. Christians have always had to resist the culture. But we are living through a time when people seem more broken and lost. There is anger but little forgiveness and mercy. Too many have lost the capacity for gratitude. It is getting harder to live a life of Christian discipleship.
In order to live in gratitude and offer thanksgiving to our Creator, we need to live in hope. We can live in hope because we know that God loves us, and he has a plan for us. Even in the midst of sorrow, we should “not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thes 4:13, RSV). Rejoice always. Maranatha!
SUSAN KEHOE is co-director of RCIA at Christ the King Parish in Des Moines, Iowa, along with her husband, Deacon Larry Kehoe. She writes at adeaconswife.com.