We Are Eucharistic Beings Thanking God for All Things

We Are Eucharistic Beings Thanking God for All Things

Fr Luke A Veronis

I used to go to a prison every Monday night for three years while I was a seminarian. We would gather together with a group of 5 to 10 prisioners holding a Bible Study. One prisoner, Carol, was serving a life sentence in prison, yet every time I met him he was joyful and encouraging of others. How could he hold such an attitude while serving a life sentence? What was his secret to living a Christ-centered life in prison? When I asked him, he surprisingly responded, “Maintaining an attitude of gratitude. You need to always see things for which you can be grateful, and then consciously thank God for them. Never focus on what you don’t have, or on how unfair life is, but thank God for what you do have, and for the blessings He gives us each and every day. Such an attitude of gratitude changes one’s perspective on life.”

Think about this radical attitude inside an institution of despair. Focusing on the good that we have received in our lives!

When I ask people what makes expressing gratitude so easy or so hard, the answer is actually the same. What makes it easy or hard is the perspective from which we look at life. Do we focus on the blessings we receive every day, or do we highlight the unfairness of life and notice all that we don’t have, highlighting all the struggles we face.

Maintaining an “Attitude of Gratitude” is a choice we make every day. Will we express gratitude and thanksgiving to God for this particular day and notice all the blessings that await us? Or will we remain indifferent and cold to life, choosing to focus mainly on the problems and uncertainties we face, allowing our particular worries to control our worldview?

The choice we make each day clearly reflects the authenticity of our relationship with Jesus Christ. To live in Christ and have His Spirit dwelling within us automatically implies a life of gratitude and thanksgiving!

We need to see gratitude as not only a choice, however, but also as a spiritual discipline we develop. Just like we choose to pray each day, or choose to fast during this Nativity Fast, or choose to generously give alms, these are all disciplines that might not come naturally to us. Just as we have to work at developing these spiritual disciplines, the same can be said for cultivating and developing the discipline of daily gratitude.

As Henri Nouwen notes, “The choice for gratitude rarely comes without some serious effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious. . . . There is an Estonian proverb that says: “Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.” Acts of gratitude make one grateful because, step by step, they reveal that all of life is grace.”

Something that separates us human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom is that we alone are Eucharistic beings, created in the image and likeness of God. This means God created us to give thanks back to our Creator and to all His creation. Expressing gratitude is a sign of our humanity. Ingratitude is a sign of our fallen humanity reflecting a terrible spiritual malaise.

God created us to be creatures of praise – people who continually thank our Creator and bless Him at all times. By forgetting or ignoring this, we reject who we are as His Children and ignore a fundamental purpose of our lives! Our inability, unwillingness, or forgetfulness to express gratitude reflects pride lurking in our hearts. We don’t thank God because by thanking Him, we acknowledge all He has done for us. And the same can be said for why we struggle to thank one another. Our ego and pride hold us back, making us think that we deserve all we have.

Let’s connect this with the Gospel story we heard today of the Rich Fool. This man would be considered a resounding success from society’s perspective. He was so rich that he could retire early with enough to enjoy a comfortable, even luxurious life. Yet, what the world calls successful, God calls foolishness. He calls the rich man a FOOL!

Why? Because this man lost his humanity. He forgot that he is a Eucharist being, a child of God created to express gratitude and then to show his gratitude through his generosity. Life isn’t about amassing wealth and possessions and living a comfortable life. The more we have, the more God expects from us. That means the more we have materially, financially, spiritually, or in any other form, the more God expects us to joyously and gratefully use the gifts we have to bless others. We show our gratitude by generously giving back first to God and His Church, and then to giving generously to those less fortunate all around us.

God wants to see what become generous stewards with whatever we possess. Will we act "rich toward God" or self-centered, gathering only for ourselves and our family, caring only for our own comfort? Will we understand life as an opportunity to share our blessings with others – to love our neighbor as ourselves? God understands success from the perspective of how we show divine love to others, which implies a life of giving, not gathering; of loving and serving others, not focusing only on oneself. Contrary to society’s foolish worldview, life is not about amassing wealth, fame, and power, where our ego becomes the center of the world!

Here lies the sin of the rich man in today’s Gospel. God calls him a fool because of his egocentric blindness. In the midst of his wealth and prosperity, his comfort and ease, the rich man forgot about what life is truly about. The rich fool forgot that “true richness” in God’s eyes is expressing gratitude to the Lord for all He has given us and then showing gratitude through our actions of sharing our blessings with His Church and with others. 

Sincere Gratitude leads to Generosity. Gratitude is a choice, a spiritual discipline that helps us fulfill our calling as Eucharistic beings, people created to offer God praise and thanksgiving, and who then express that thanksgiving by generously giving to others. Ingratitude and a lack of giving reflects our own spiritual illness. Let us remember this not only on this Thanksgiving week, but every day of our lives.

Let me conclude with this prayer from the Akathist Hymn “Glory to God for All Things.”

-      Glory to you for calling me into being,

-      Glory to you for spreading out before me the beauty of nature and the universe,

-      Glory to you for revealing to me your eternal book of wisdom,

-      Glory to you for your mercies, seen and unseen,

-      Glory to you for the feast-day of life,

-      Glory to you for the hope of the unutterable, imperishable beauty of immortality,

-      Glory to you for the people your providence gave me to meet,

-      Glory to you for the joy of living, moving and seeing,

-      Glory to you, for our unquenchable thirst for communion with God, the goal in whom humankind’s highest dreams come true,

-      Glory to you, calming tribulations and bereavement with the healing flow of time,

-      Glory to you, sending us failures and afflictions to make us sensitive to other people’s sufferings,

-      Glory to you, transfiguring our lives with deeds of love,

-      Glory to you for the inconceivable and life-giving power of grace,

-      Glory to you who established your Church as a haven of peace for a tormented world,

-      Glory to you, unfathomable abyss of forgiveness,

-      Glory be to You, O God, from age to age!

May we say every day, "Glory to You, O God, for all things!"

A Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving to All!

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