Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Eve Reflections on Gratitude by Rev. Jennifer Marie Marcus ARCWP, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving celebrations are filled with many memories and family traditions, which make this holiday special.  We here at Nativity would like to start a new family tradition by inaugurating this First Annual Thanksgiving Eve Outreach Pie Fest. We hope this celebration will provide us with the opportunity to express our gratitude to God and each other in a special way through prayer, community, food and outreach.

Our gathering in prayer helps us reflect and be thankful for  the many blessings we have received from our loving and generous God .As we reflect on those blessings we come to realize that they come in many forms and at times not always readily understood . Events, circumstances, gains, losses can sometime seem anything but blessings. But through those seemingly negative experiences we acquire new insights about life and ourselves .

They become an opportunity for growth and enlightenment. The famous Jesuit Spiritual Director and Retreat Master , Anthony De Mello in his book The Way to Love  in his chapter on “Suffering and Glory  “ wrote : Here is a simple truth of life that most people never Discover .Happy events  make life delightful but they do not lead to self-discovery ,and growth and freedom. That privilege is reserved to the things and persons and situations that cause us pain. Every painful event contains in itself a seed of growth and liberation.” While it’s true that often we need the perspective of time to gain that awareness and find the light and the courage to be grateful for those negative experiences. “

Speaking for myself I have had such experiences that were life altering, illuminating and enriching. One such experience occurred when I was a young attorney in my first real law job after passing the BAR, I was confronted with an ethical problem precipitated by one of the partners in the firm. I had to become a whistleblower and because of it  I lost my job with the firm .and all he received was slap om the wrist from the State Bar.  It took me several months of hustling cases and court appointments before I was offered a steady reliable job with the City of Hazel Park as its CETA Director and Assistant City Attorney .Those positions provided me with the opportunity to acquire greater trial and administrative  experience in Labor and Employment Law which became my sought out specialty and was a segue in my securing a good position at FOMOCO  a year and a half later.

But to get to that stage of awareness for being grateful for a difficult situation requires practice on a daily basis .It is not just a one day event on Thanksgiving. We need to try to become mindful in seeing most events and circumstances in our lives as having more than one facet. A thankful way of being opens perspectives, new points of view, and leads to hope. It leads to wait and see , to preserve in expecting a good of some kind to surface  even in the most difficult of times and circumstances. Blessings can be disguised as problems at first. But time can manifest the good buried in those negative events and circumstances which we all face at one time or another. 

Psychologists tells us that gratitude is the healthiest emotion we can express even greater than love .Because love in a relationship can be painful and it can also be very stressful. But gratitude begets a peaceful heart, an open mind and hopeful .expectant attitude on life.
Another important form and expression of gratitutde that becomes a blessing   is when we are able to share our goods, food, time, assistance, attention and assistance to others.  As the prayer of St. Francis reads” It is in giving of ourselves that we receive, in loving that we are loved ,in forgiving that we are forgiven.”

In sum, God gives us a variety of abundance so that we can be blessed by sharing our gifts, and in times when we are experiencing scarcity,  we become  blessed by receiving  gifts from others.

So, in this harvest time of year may we become grateful people who give and receive a variety of gifts. May we see God’s loving care and compassion as gifts we have to share.  May we come closer each day to living our thankfulness as our way of being. May this annual Thanksgiving Day celebration make us mindful to give thanks to recognize our blessings and to share our gifts with others.  May gratitude become a way of life and not just celebrated one day a year.

Finally, I would like to state that when we pray in  Gratitude for the simplest things in life it becomes  the highest and most powerful form prayer we can offer to our loving  Creator .

In conclusion , I would like to  quote from St. Basil The Great:  the Greek bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia, Asia Minor He was recognized as a noted theologian and Doctor of the Church.
 “When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking God   for being so generous to you. If you drink wine, be mindful of that the Holy One   has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank God  for the Holy One’s  kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore God  who in the Holy One’s  wisdom has arranged things in this way. Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator.”

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