An Attitude of Gratitude
By Helen Young
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
It’s easy to focus on all of the things we don’t have right now, especially since we are without the sacraments, the ordinary way we receive grace from Our Loving Father. But that is exactly what the enemy wants us to do right now, he wants us to be angry and despair, he wants us to be fearful and anxious, he wants us to be impatient and lash out at those we love and are living so closely with right now.
But what does Jesus want? He wants us to focus on Him and develop our interior life with Him. That looks like: daily mental prayer, perhaps participating in an online mass, spiritual reading, praying the rosary or divine mercy chaplet. It looks like offering up our small sufferings, or large ones if that’s what is in your life right now. Offering up our sufferings for the end to the coronavirus, for healing for those who have the virus, for the safety of those working on the front lines (doctors, nurses, all healthcare workers) and those providing for us at home (grocery store workers, truck drivers, delivery services, mail men, city workers), for those who are now unemployed, for the businesses that have failed in the last couple of weeks, for all who are feeling lonely and depressed at home, for the mothers trying to work from home and home school, for the whole world.
What does it mean to “offer it up?” We hear that phrase so often and don’t know how to do it or even really know what it means. Simply put it means to act in our role as priests, which we received at our baptism when we were anointed with the Chrism oil. The priest or deacon prays these words at the anointing:
As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.
When we are baptized with water in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, we are forgiven from original sin and the door is opened to a new life in Christ. We are restored through our baptism and are able to be in relationship with our God. Through our baptism we are sons and daughters of the King and are also called to be priests, prophets and kings through the anointing with oil.
What does this look like as laypeople, to exercise our roles as priests, prophets and kings? Ordained priests, by Holy Orders, become members of the ministerial priesthood. Yet the common priesthood designates all the baptized. Sharing in the priesthood of Christ begins at one’s Baptism.
Writer Pat Gohn explains it well:
“The common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood worship together at Mass. We are a priestly community. The lay faithful worship alongside the ordained priest(s). Both make offerings to God. The priest is specifically ordained to confect the Eucharist — to offer and consecrate the bread and wine — on behalf of those gathered. The laity, too, actively participate by offering themselves and their gifts and sacrifices to God.”
So we can offer our joys, works, sorrows, sufferings, our very lives at the altar at Mass with the priest. These are real offerings and we do this by bringing to mind all that we have to offer God during the offertory, and then by visualizing ourselves placing these offerings on the altar so that during the Eucharistic prayers our offerings are joined with those of the Priest as he prays:
“Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours (meum ac vestrum sacrificium) may be acceptable to God the Almighty Father.”
There are not two sacrifices. Rather, we share in the singular sacrifice of Christ, each in a unique way.
But, you say, “right now we aren’t able to go to public masses!” But you can participate in a livestream Mass and you can still offer your offerings and sacrifices and they are joined with the Priests sacrifice, just as if you were there.
Another way to exercise your role as a member of the common priesthood is to offer your prayers and sacrifices during your daily prayer time. I close my eyes and offer my whole life to Jesus, I see myself placing all that I am and all that I have at the foot of Cross daily, and in this way we can participate in the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross. I offer Jesus, my joys, the things that I am most grateful for, my sorrows, the things that most trouble my heart, the sufferings of the world, of those who are sick and those who have no one to pray for them. I place all of these things at Jesus’ feet and I ask Him to accept them and make them a real part of His Sacrifice that redeems the world.
So do not let your hearts be troubled, but instead give everything to Jesus, and let Him offer it all to the Father in the Holy Spirit.
Another way to stay focused on Jesus right now is to make a gratitude list. Write down specifically what you are grateful for and thank Our Heavenly Father repeatedly for taking good care of us all. But you say, “I can’t see the good care right now!” But He is taking care of us! The fact that we even exist is thanks to Him. If He stops thinking of us, we cease to exist. A good place to start is to simply thank God for our existence. For the fact that we woke up today, that we can breathe, that we have shelter and do have food. We can thank Him for our families and friends and for the technology to keep us in contact with each other. AND we can thank God for the things that we don’t like right now – that we are stuck at home, perhaps that we are lonely, that we feel isolated, that some plans that we have counted on have now changed. God will take all of these things we don’t like and make them beautiful. He will work good out of bad – He always does. He IS and always will be our Loving, Kind, Generous, Doting, Father – even when we cannot see it. His love is constantly poured out, but sometimes with our limited vision we have a hard time seeing His immense Love. By writing out a daily or even several times daily gratitude list we develop and attitude of gratitude, instead of an attitude of ungratefulness and bitterness.
I am grateful for my interior life where I meet Jesus daily in prayer, and the prayer room in my house that He helped me create. I am grateful for the Love that is poured out in that prayer time and for the desire to share that Love. I am grateful for the Catholic Church and her wisdom and that I can be obedient to her even when I can’t understand everything. I am grateful for good Pastors who shepherd their flocks with love, and my wise spiritual director. I am grateful for my husband and his love for me even when I am difficult, and for my three children and the people they love. I am grateful for my sobriety, one day at a time. I am grateful for shelter and food, and even for the pollen that makes me sneeze. I am grateful for the bees that are pollinating and for the beautiful weather. I am grateful for the time God has given me during this strange period to start and finish projects that I had been procrastinating. I am thankful to live in America, to have good doctors and healthcare when we need it, for good leaders and those who support them. But mostly, I am thankful for God’s Divine Providence – that He has a plan and I don’t need to know it, see it, or understand it, but that I TRUST in my God and love Him with my whole heart.
“In all created things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks.”
– St Teresa of Avila
A song of ascents. Of David.
LORD, my heart is not proud;
nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself with great matters,
with things too sublime for me.
Rather, I have stilled my soul,
Like a weaned child to its mother,
weaned is my soul.
Israel, hope in the LORD,
now and forever.