Perhaps it is the time of year, but I keep bumping into the realization that gratitude is a powerful avenue for grace and goodness in our lives. Which means that I have also become acutely aware of my heart’s lack of it. I have come to see that my perspective on most things is directly correlated to my gratitude in that area. For example, when my thoughts regarding someone I love seem to be overly critical, I realize that it is tied to a disproportionate focus on the qualities this person lacks or mistakes he or she has made. Once I start to consider the many wonderful qualities of that person or ways that person blesses me, my critique softens and my perspective widens.
Living without enough gratitude essentially means that we are constantly focused on what we, or others, lack. It breeds discontentment and sets us up for strive. As with the formation of all spiritual disciplines, I need to make deeper gratitude a habit in order to become a more thankful person. I have heard of people keeping gratitude journals, and I thought I would try it. It’s nothing elaborate, but I simply daily write a couple of lines about someone or something I am thankful to God (the source of all good) for in my life. In keeping with this mindset, I thought I would spend the month of November blogging about some big things we have to be thankful for in our lives.
I was standing in the confession line on a recent Saturday afternoon, and it suddenly hit me: this is a really beautiful sight. Each one of us standing there was carrying some sin, some burden; and in just a few minutes we would be free of it. We would have the opportunity to confess it out loud, to name it and call it for what it was. We had the opportunity, with the priests help, to get to the root of this sin in our lives. And then, “God the Father of mercies” would forgive us, wipe the slate clean, and draw us close. We would walk out of that confessional free of our burdens and ready to carry on the pilgrim’s path.
And this wonderful sacrament would be available to us whenever we fall again…and again. What a gift our God has given us! Christ’s work on the cross opened up a floodgate of mercy for us, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation connects us with that mercy as often as we have need of it. How do we respond to that?
I think that I often go too long between confessions when I’m not filled with enough gratitude for the sacrament. I let time pass and miss out on the chance to let God’s mercy fill the holes. God has given us a tremendous gift in forgiving our sins. When our sin separates us from him, He is waiting there in the confessional to restore the relationship. But we have to show up. I believe that a grateful heart will come frequently, because it longs for that restoration and feels deep gratitude for its cost.