In the letter of St. Paul to the Colossians, we read, “Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness.” (Colossians 3:15)
St. Ambrose said, "No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.”
If we were to make a list of all the things we are grateful for, how long would the list be? If we come up with only a couple of hundred things, there’s a little book I often mention that may help us. It’s titled 14,000 Things to be Happy About. It will open our minds to the many, many ordinary blessings we often take for granted.
In listing what we are grateful for, where do we start? I suggest we start with our bodies, then our senses, emotions, abilities, and accomplishments. Then go on to the earth, to people, and all the gifts of our faith.
Our Bodies. Did you know that the human heartbeats about 100,000 times a day?
Did you know that we have 650 muscles in our bodies? They enable us to walk, dance, smile, and lift ourselves out of bed, etc.
And then there are our bones, brains, our lungs, our stomachs, -- so many the marvels to our human bodies.
Our Senses: Our eyes. If the human eye were a digital camera, it would have 576 megapixels.
We also give thanks for our ears. Not only because our ears help us hear beautiful sounds. But also because our inner ear keeps us from falling over.
Then there is our sense of taste, touch and smell.
Our Emotions. We humans are capable of a wide range of emotions.
Our Talents. With our bodies, minds, senses and emotions working together, we possess a wide range of talent and abilities.
Some are language experts, others are musically gifted, while others are wizards in math or medicine, music or science, art or sports…and on and on.
Our Achievements. Because of our body, mind, senses, emotions and talents, we give thanks for all we have achieved so far, e.g. all we have learned, all the work we have accomplishes, all the good things we have done, all our kind words spoken, etc.
The Earth. The earth provides us food, clothing and shelter, plus water for our bodies and air for our lungs. We are grateful for the sun for giving us light and warmth, and helping plants to grow.
People. We give thanks for our family, friends, teachers, doctors, cooks… The list of all the people who make our life possible is almost endless.
Gifts From Above. As for the gifts of faith, we especially give thanks that “God so loved us that he sent his only Son.” (John 3:16). Jesus comes to us as our teacher, our savior, and our friend. At Mass we give thanks especially for Jesus’ death and resurrection. We give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist, for forgiveness, for the many gifts of the Holy Spirit, and for the hope of eternal life.
If we start reflecting about our body, our mind, our senses, our emotions, our abilities and our accomplishments, the earth, people, gifts of faith, chances are we will come up with more than 14,000 things to be grateful for.
Why all this talk about gratitude today?
Our gospel today is about the Transfiguration of Jesus. His apostles got a glimpse of his divinity. It also gave them a hint of how they will be transformed.
Transformed, changed… In this life, what causes transformation to take place? One cause is gratitude. And during Lent, it is a good practice to fast from a grouchy attitude, and instead almsgivea grateful attitude -- giving thanks to God and thanks to others.
Yes, gratitude can transform us. It can transform a person into someone who cares for the earth, loves all people, and is in awe of the Creator.
Willie Nelson said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”
One French writer commented, “I’ve had a wonderful life. I only wish I realized it sooner.”
Jon Gordon noted, “Research shows that when we count three blessings a day, we get a measurable boost in happiness that uplifts and energizes us. It’s also physically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time.”
Melody Beatie stated, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. … Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrows.”
Finally, W. J. Cameron said, “A thankful heart has a continual feast.” Gratitude transforms each day into a feast, and that feast transforms us. Powerful stuff – gratitude.
Go figure? No, go transfigure. This Lent let us fast from speaking criticism, and almsgive words of thanks – to God, and to all who help us.
This will transfigure us more and more into the likeness of Christ, and everyone around us will be grateful.