Stuffed Full of Graces

By Marc Massery

Between second helpings of mashed potatoes and pecan pie, listening to grandpa's bad jokes, and watching the Bears beat up on the Lions, this Thanksgiving offers us an opportunity to reflect on the centrality of gratitude in our daily walk as Christian Catholics.

The word "Eucharist," after all, comes from a Greek word that quite actually means "thanksgiving." The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "It is called ... Eucharist because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein and eulogein recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim - especially during a meal - God's works: creation, redemption, and sanctification" (1328).

Creation, Redemption, Sanctification
Creation: God created us out of love. We did nothing to merit our existence. Creation is a blessing, so the only thing we have to give our Creator is our gratitude.

Redemption: Despite this free gift of our creation, despite the Lord providing more than what we need, when we sin we selfishly turn away from the One who gave us everything. Thankfully, God didn't stop loving humanity when we fell from grace. Instead, He gave us even more. He became man, died on the Cross, and rose from the dead to redeem us. Thank you, Jesus!

Sanctification: The Lord not only saved us, but wants to make us holy. Our sanctification finds its completion in Heaven, but it starts here. The Kingdom of God is at hand. The Lord wants us to follow His will now so that we might enjoy the peace of Heaven and spread that peace to others. There are few blessings on earth greater than the peace of God.

So between creation, redemption, and sanctification, we have more than enough for which to be grateful. For these reasons, we celebrate the Eucharist. In a similar way, we have a Thanksgiving feast, to remember all the blessings we have as Americans.

Gratitude: From Head to Heart
You might be thinking to yourself, "I know God created me, redeemed me, and wants to make me holy. I realize He loves me, and I know I should be grateful. But I'm still having trouble paying the bills every month," or "My father is still dying of cancer," or "I still have trouble getting along with my family - especially at the holidays."

Maybe you know intellectually that God loves you and that you should be grateful, but you just can't seem to allow this message to go from your head to your heart.

In our brokenness, we have the tendency to believe that God deprives us. But He can't. It's not in God's nature to skimp. It is, however, in our nature. God always gives us enough. We just have to learn how to recognize His blessings.

This might be hard to hear, especially for those who are enduring unspeakable tragedies. But no matter what suffering we face, God's holy will "is Love and Mercy itself," (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 950). As long as we try our best to seek His ways, He allows whatever happens to us and uses it for our own good. But if we don't trust in His goodness, if we don't have a spirit of gratitude, we might miss out on how He is working in our lives.

Often, when we find ourselves waiting on God to change our situation, it's really us who needs to change. When we make our attitude one of gratitude, however, when we count our blessings - especially during tough times - we will witness God perform continual, silent miracles every day. Then we won't be able to keep back from being thankful, despite our cross.

Seeing the world, seeing others, seeing ourselves like the Lord sees us, is holiness. We just have to do the best we can to recognize what we have - we have to be grateful - in order to witness the Kingdom of God within and around us.

If you're trying as best you can to be grateful but still feel burned out, take solace in the words of Christ from St. Faustina's Diary. It says, "I went before the Blessed Sacrament; and when I immersed myself in a prayer of thanksgiving, I heard these words in my soul: My child you are My delight, you are the comfort of My Heart. I grant you as many graces as you can hold. As often as you want to make Me happy, speak to the world about My great and unfathomable mercy" (950).

If you want to receive as many graces from the Lord as you can hold, speak to others about His mercy. Nothing shows gratitude to the Lord like proclaiming His love, mercy, and goodness. Think back to all the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon you: including generations in your family long passed who said "yes" to life to something as mundane as what you had for breakfast this morning.

In the end, all that prevents the Lord from pouring His grace upon us is our own lack of trust in His goodness, which often comes as a result of our own ingratitude.

So this thanksgiving, give thanks. But really give thanks. Perhaps start a daily gratitude journal. (I highly recommend this practice). Through practicing gratitude, you can willingly alter your attitude. Then expect God to rain blessings down upon you. And He will stuff you so full of graces you will have to loosen your belt and lie down for a while.


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