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Father Muench Says...

Lenten goal: an attitude of gratitude

March 2, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I believe that an important part of any Lenten program is gratitude.

Each Lent we are set out for developing a newness, a new life in the Resurrection of Jesus, so during Lent we do things to strengthen our own spiritual lives. We accomplish this through prayer, Scripture and doing something extra as opportunities to remember Jesus, to remember the Passion and death of Jesus.

As we do all of this we again realize all that Jesus did for us and for this we must be grateful. This gratitude should empower all that we do.

Now what does this mean? Jesus came to this world to demonstrate to all of us God’s great love for us.  Once we are fully aware that we are a loved people and realize that that love brings to us God’s mercy and forgiveness, there is only one response: gratitude.

Think of it. We are loved by God even in our sinfulness and for this we must be a grateful people.

During Lent we often walk the Stations of the Cross, a prayer that leads us to walk with Jesus during his Passion and Death.  We know that Jesus suffered to demonstrate to us just how much God truly loved us. 

These Stations of the Cross make the reality of Christ’s love and his sufferings dramatically obvious.  Each time I pray the Stations of the Cross my final prayer is always a prayer of gratitude.  Thank you, Lord – you accepted all of this for me.

The experience of gratitude changes me each time I experience it, each time I thank someone who has been good to me, each time that God has been good to me.  I have been blessed so often by God and by the thousands of people who have done so much for me. 

There is happiness in gratitude, not just because something good has been done for me but also gratitude brings me something special.

Gratitude brings a special closeness to all who have been so good to me and also to my God.

The celebration of gratitude – of all my gratitude – is the Blessed Eucharist, the Holy Mass.  As you know, the word “Eucharist” means “thank you.”  Every time we join with our community to participate in the celebration of the Mass, gratitude becomes an integral part of my prayer.  

The Eucharist transforms us, makes us a new and different person.  I believe this is true every time we join in the celebration of the Mass.  Each time I join in that experience gratitude is part of the transformation.  I am a better person because I have united myself with the Lord in the Blessed Eucharist and I am eternally grateful.
Back to Lent. I have decided that an important and necessary Lenten practice would be to express my gratitude to so many people who have been good to me and made my life better.  So I have found some really good thank you cards.

It won’t be a long epistle since I hope they know already but I need to express my gratitude. It will be so good for me.  For those who have died, I will turn to them in prayer.

My guide in gratefulness is Brother David Steinl-Rast, O.S.B.; his writings and his Youtube talks have become a school of gratefulness for me.  So I close today with some of his words from his book, “Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer.”

“The interdependence of gratefulness is truly mutual.  The receiver of the gift depends on the giver.  Obviously, so.  But the circle of gratefulness is incomplete until the giver of the gift becomes the receiver of thanks.  When we give thanks, we give something greater than the gift we received, whatever it was.  The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving.  In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks we give ourselves. 

One who says ‘Thank you’ to another really says, ‘We belong together.’  Giver and thanks giver belong together.  The bond that unites them frees them from alienation.  Does our society suffer from so much alienation because we fail to cultivate gratefulness.” 

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