An Encouraging Word — Feeling grateful

Father J. Ronald Knott

Father J. Ronald Knott

They blessed the Lord with hymns of grateful praise.
II Maccabees 10:38

It is Thanksgiving and the feeling that has been most constant in the last couple of months is gratitude. I am filled with gratitude for the people who have enriched my life, for the opportunities I have had and the opportunities that I have somehow been given the grace to seize. Looking back, I never imagined having the peace I have now — with myself, with the world, with the church and with God.

The Amish have a proverb that goes like this. “No joy is complete unless it is shared.” When I share the fact that I am overcome with gratitude, I want you to know that it is not bragging. I know it is because of God’s grace. I know it is a gift. I know it is not something that I engineered. That’s why I can write about it so openly.

A hero of mine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who suffered so much, reminds me how much I have been enriched by others. “In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”

It is risky sharing your happiness. It is sad that people are often more comfortable with sharing their pains than their joys. Steve Maraboli offers this important insight. “Just an observation: It is impossible to be both grateful and depressed. Those with a grateful mindset tend to see the message in the mess. And even though life may knock them down, the grateful find reasons, if even small ones, to get up.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

Thomas Merton reminded us of another basic truth. “Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

Seneca wrote, “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”

For that reason, I am sure there will be days when this present gratitude is not so intense. Hopefully, I can remember the words of Dr. Suess who said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Father J. Ronald Knott

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