Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On Thursday Jan 26, 2017, during the clergy retreat for priests and deacons of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, Bishop Andrew Cozen, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis, Minnesota, spoke to us about the virtue of gratitude.
His talk was inspired by the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians 5:16-18 – "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus."
In his first point, Bishop Andrew said the virtue of "Gratitude" is the Christian response to life in general. He mentions the gospel of Saint Luke 17:12-19. Jesus tells us of 10 lepers he healed, but only one came back to him to thank Him with a show of gratitude. St. Luke further points out this leper was a Samaritan not a Jew.
So Jesus emphasizes that out of the 10 he cleansed, only one "foreigner" came back to praise God and give Him thanks.
Pope Benedict XVI, remarked Bishop Andrew, says: "It is faith that saves man", and re- establishes "him in his profound relationship with God, with himself and with others; and faith is expressed through gratitude."
Gratitude then is the form of prayer that elevates Christians to God. This attitude of gratitude, says Bishop Andrew, is therefore the heart of the liturgical life of Christians. The purpose of Liturgy is to render God adoration and gratitude for all his Divine Gifts of salvation. He quotes a professor of Liturgy, Romano Guardini who said the "thanksgiving of the Christian consists in accepting life, with ever-growing awareness, as God's gift."
In conclusion, Christian prayer is, at its root, a prayer of gratitude.
In fact, Bishop Andrew treated the virtue of gratitude not only from its liturgical perspective as being a prayer of thanksgiving at its source; but more so, quoting Romano Guardini, the Benedictine Liturgist around the Second Council of Vatican in Rome, as being the sign of care and concern for one another. When you care about someone you show gratitude. When something matters, we show gratitude. Not indifference. Lots of times in our life, we fall into a habit of growing indifferent towards what we receive in our life, whether toward God, our neighbor, the Church or each other.
Guardini insists, "It is therefore of utmost importance that we should learn to give thanks. We must do away with the indifference which takes all things for granted, for nothing is to be taken for granted. Everything is a gift. Not until man has understood this will he truly be free."
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, gratitude is the attitude of people who live in the light of the Holy Spirit.
In the recent years, we see more and more individualism and materialism eating up our families, our churches and nations around the world. People, instead of sharing through gratitude the gifts and resources that God gave to them, instead grow in an attitude of entitlement and possessiveness instead.
Often, when people look to love or serve others, it is only with conditions. Or, when they have success, they think they alone caused it to be. No recognition or thanksgiving is rendered to God.
This is a sad and dangerous position for souls. The lack of gratitude and the attitude of entitlement in the world today, is a sign that faith in God has diminished, and that love has grown cold in the hearts of many.
We must repent of this thankless attitude.
The issues we are witnessing in the world today such as the forced migration of Christians from their lands in the Middle East, Africa and other places in the world; the persecution of over 150 million Christians and the immigration and displacement of over 75 million refugees from nations; daily murders and abuses of thousands exacerbated by displacement from natural disasters -- all of this is a reminder for all us to be grateful to God Almighty, for sparing us His chalice of pain and death.
Ask yourself: Do I really believe in God? And, do I really thank him for everything in my life?
As parents of children, as members in our community, or as friends of others: Do you share God with these people in your life? Do you tell others of the good things God has done for you and is doing?
If we are Christians, baptized in the Lord Jesus Christ, we must share God with others. As Christians, we are believers in Jesus Christ, the Only Son of the Living God and Savior of the World. Every day we should render thanksgiving, gratitude and praise to Him, God Almighty who saved us from sin and evil.
Receiving the sacrament of penance by making a good confession and doing reparation through acts of mortification and active charity is a concrete way to show God our acknowledgment for all we believe He gave us. Confession is not only for sinners. Confession heals souls from falling into indifference, apathy, lack of faith, dullness of love and the absence of holiness.
I invite us all to live in gratitude to God as the community of the saints we are called to be.
Fr. Andre Y Mahanna