GREETINGS, friends ... May the blessings of inner peace, quiet joy, wonder and gratitude abound in each of your lives! And let us pray that these blessings radiate out to wherever they are most needed.
To pray is to regain a sense of the Mystery that animates all beings. The Divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the Mystery by which we live. Who is worthy to be present to the constant unfolding of time amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers, wiser than all alphabets ... clouds that die constantly for the sake of God's glory. We are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of all our clashes and complaint in the face of the tacit glory in nature. It is so embarrassing to live. How strange we are in the world and how presumptuous our doings. Only one response can maintain us: GRATEFULNESS for witnessing the wonder; for the gift to our unearned right to live ... to adore ... to fulfill. It is GRATEFULNESS which makes the soul great.
Time after I came to your gate with raised hands asking for more yet more. You gave and gave, now in slow measure, now in sudden excess. I took some, and some things I let drop; some lay heavy on my hands; some I made into playthings and broke them when tired; till the wrecks and hoard of gifts grew immense, hiding You, and the ceaseless expectations wore my heart out.
Take, O take, has now become my cry. Shatter all from the beggar's bowl. Put out this lamp of the importunate watcher; hold my hands, raise me from the still-gathering heap of your gifts into the bare infinity of your uncrowded presence.
GRATITUDE is the most fruitful way of deepening your consciousness that you are not an "accident", but a divine choice. It is important to realize how often we have had chances to be grateful and have not used them. When someone is kind to us, when an event turns out well, when a problem is solved, a relationship restored, a wound healed, these are very concrete reasons to offer thanks... When we keep claiming the light, we will find ourselves becoming more and more radiant. What fascinates me so much is that every time we decide to be grateful, it will be easier to see new things to be grateful for. Gratitude begets gratitude, just as love begets love.
You will hardly believe your ear, since,
as You know, I like to divide my time equally
between feeling sorry for myself,
and asking You to make things better for me.
But just this once, I'd like to thank You for
all those things, beginning with the gift
of life itself, You have showered on me for
no earthly reason that I can see,
except that inexplicably in the face of
selfishness and ingratitude of monumental
proportions and endurance,
You love me.
The story of a saint is always a love story. It is a story of a God who loves, and of the beloved who learns how to reciprocate and share that "harsh and dreadful love". It is a story that includes misunderstanding, deception, betrayal, concealment, reversal, and revelation of character. It is, if the saints are to be trusted, our story. But to be a saint is not to be a solitary lover. It is to enter into deeper community with everyone and everything that exists.
Appreciation is a natural gift. It is meant to lead us to God ... Appreciation naturally appears the moment our self-concern is relinquished. It cannot be possessed and it cannot be earned; it simply IS, a free gift, available everywhere. Life is known then more as art than task. The greatest task becomes our work to help others realize such wonder. The wonder is so great that we are in danger of overfascination. We easily become focused on the gifts as an end in themselves; they do not always lead us to the Giver. We subtly become attached to the felt beauty and miss not only the initial invitation to thanksgiving, but the yet deeper invitation: to release ourselves to God as we are enabled and let rise that full quality of awareness that is beyond felt beauty, beyond self-reflective appreciation.
Benediction is a formative experience, whether we bless others or receive a blessing from them. It comes in the form of an inner or outer word or gesture arising from a loving heart. In blessing we express gratitude to God for the divine inherent in other persons. We ask God in effect to bring this form to its fullness.
As we slow down we come to realize that we are persons called in time and space TO BE freely and fully human and that therein is our sanctity. We see that an individual life is a GIFT entrusted to us freely and generously by God. When I struggle to live a life of affirmation, I must ultimately let go of trying to control all the variables of existence and surrender in faith to the freeing power of the providential plan. This only happens when I emphasize in my day-to-day life the time and place TO BE alone, TO BE with friends, TO BE with other workers and TO BE with God.
GRATITUDE is a memory of the heart. Whatever goodness the heart receives, the heart never forgets.