Presence of God – O my God, give me a grateful heart, that I may sing Your praises forever.
Incapable as we are of paying our debts to God according to justice, we should at least try to supply for them by our gratitude. Even the poorest beggar, having nothing to give in return for the alms he has received, can always acknowledge a kindness by showing gratitude to his benefactor. This is our position in regard to God: we have nothing of our own; all that we are and have comes from Him, and in return for His infinite generosity, we can do nothing but use His gifts to express our gratitude to Him. “In all things give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God, who showers blessings upon us with infinite generosity, has a perfect right to expect gratitude from us. Yet this, a natural need of a humble, delicate soul, is a duty so often neglected even by good people, even by those who have received the most favors from God. Jesus complained of this neglect when only one of the ten lepers whom He had cured returned to thank Him: “And where are the nine? Is there no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger?” (Luke 17:17,18). It is significant that the nine ungrateful ones were the nine Jews, who, being fellow-citizens of Jesus, were in a more privileged position than the stranger. Sometimes those whom Jesus has called to be His close friends, those upon whom He has bestowed a privileged vocation, are the very ones who show Him the least gratitude.
It is almost as though the multiplicity of the graces which they have received dulls their sensitiveness to the divine gifts; it seems they no longer regard the greatness of these gifts, nor the fact that they are totally gratuitous; gratitude seems to have dried up in their hearts. “Oh!” exclaims St. Teresa, “how the very greatness of His favors condemns those who are ungrateful!” (Exclamations of the Soul to God, 3). Ingratitude always redounds to the disadvantage of the soul. Let us think, for example, of the irreparable loss of the nine lepers who, not returning to give thanks for the healing they had received, forfeited the joy the one grateful leper had of hearing Jesus say: “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:19). Their want of gratitude deprived them of health of soul, a grace immeasurably more precious than the health of the body.
“I give You thanks, O eternal Father, because You have not despised Your creature, nor turned away Your face from me, nor ignored my desires. You, who are light, did not despise my darkness; You, who are life, did not go far away from me who am death; nor did You, the physician, fail to heal my wounds…. Your wisdom, mercy, and infinite goodness have not looked with scorn at all these and the infinite number of other evils and faults that are in me. What forced You to love me and to grant me so many graces? It was not my virtues but only Your charity. May I always keep Your favors in mind, and may my will burn with the fire of Your charity.
“O inestimable Love, how admirable are the things You have done in Your creature! O my wretched, blind soul, where is your cry of gratitude, where are the tears you should shed in the sight of your God who is unceasingly calling to you? Where are all my yearning desires in the sight of divine mercy? They are not in me because I have not yet lost myself, for if I were lost and had sought only You, my God, only the glory and the praise of Your Name, my heart would have thrilled in a hymn of gratitude.
“Thanks be to You, O eternal, most high Trinity! I am she who is not and You are He who is. Glorify Yourself by enabling me to praise You. Pardon me, O Father, pardon me who am miserable, and ungrateful to You for the immense benefits I have received. I confess that Your goodness has preserved me, Your spouse, although because of my many defects I have often been unfaithful to You” (St. Catherine of Siena).
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“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; for his love endures forever”
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Art: Christus und die Aussätzigen (Christ and the Lepers), Gebhard Fugel, circa 1920, PD-Worldwide, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.