Gratitude and thanksgiving have always been understood as one of the most important elements of prayer. One could even go so far as to say that gratitude is the heart of prayer. It all begins with a deep sense of wonder. I am in the presence of someone or something greater than I. I have received something from another. It was a surprise, I had no expectation that it was to come my way. I am in a position of receiving and then wondering. What I experience may be as grand as nature or the smile and quiet word of a small child. In the end, it is a gift that has approached me. My heart wells up in thanksgiving.
There is something about an ungrateful person that makes us stop and step back. Something is missing. We feel uneasy. Gratitude is so much a part of being truly human that when it is lacking for some reason we tend to pull away. Communication and dialogue become difficult then. We feel a disharmony present; unhappiness brings a restlessness.
When things are not going so well, then it is time to look for something for which we can be grateful. There is a beautiful sunrise, there is the conversation that lifted me up, there is the neighbor who is always ready to help, there is the smile on someone’s face, there is my community of faith, there is the gift of my life. St. Paul tells us to rejoice always. And in the same breath, he says to give thanks in all circumstances. For those whose hearts are grounded in gratitude, there is an inner joy and a freedom. Life is then always lived in hope.
Fr. Joel Macul, OSB