Dedicate Yourselves to Thankfulness. Col. 3: 15.
I have been very aware of this Scripture quotation for the last thirty years – ever since my closest friend shared her diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. These were the words she always called to mind throughout the year that followed: through surgery, radiation, a second surgery and then chemotherapy; during a pilgrimage to Lourdes and ultimately the doctor’s message that the tumor had regrown on both sides of the brain. This news came on the Feast of St. Bernadette, echoing the saint’s realization that “the (healing water of the) spring is not for me.” My friend’s commitment to the spirit of gratitude never wavered.
Over the past three decades, I have tried to imitate her. I read once about having a practice of finding something different each day to be grateful for before going to sleep. I did pretty well with that until I couldn’t think of something different each night.
In recent months, several of the Sisters at Merici Crossings have accepted an invitation to gather in a silent communal prayer for one of our Sisters in hospice. We are very intentional about sending peace and love to her during this journey. This past week, we included the blessing of gratitude in our prayer intention. We were reminded that gratitude radiates more positive energy than the powerful energy of love.
I thought about this again today because of Father Tom Sweeney’s homily at Mass. He reflected on the challenges that faced St. Paul as he traveled from city to city preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was heckled, threatened, imprisoned, and endured both legal and physical setbacks that ultimately cost him his life. Father demonstrated that Paul’s letters were always positive, always sought to encourage the newly baptized, and always provided meaning and purpose for his followers’ efforts on behalf of the faith. Clearly Paul, in spite of overwhelming challenges, chose to share a positive and encouraging message.
It may be taking me thirty years, but I’m finally realizing that it is up to me to name the many blessings that surround me each day and to choose to be grateful for each and every one of them. Instead of thinking I have to find a different blessing, I need to be more aware and give thanks continuously. Doing that will take dedication.