For many of us listening to this podcast, at least those in the United States, this week is dominated by Thanksgiving Day. As I mentioned recently, it may seem strange for Christians to focus on giving thanks only once a year, since it should be our general stance towards life. As St. Ignatius Loyola, the Founder of the Jesuits, once remarked, “Ingratitude is the worst and most abominable of sins, and in fact the origin of all sins.” If you’re ungrateful you’re probably wanting more and more, and that can tempt you to sin. Once on retreat I was complaining about the one thing that I didn’t have in my life, and overlooking all the many positive things that were going on, and my retreat director gently challenged me, saying, “Don’t you think you’re being just the littlest bit greedy?”
From a more positive standpoint, we might ask what gratitude, or giving thanks, does for us. Well, first it reminds us where our blessings come from: God. Second, it reminds us that we’re not God, much as we are tempted to think we are! Third, it focuses on some things that we might overlook. Finally, it reminds us that we’re fortunate and blessed, and that others who are not as fortunate may need our help. Overall, the “attitude of gratitude” is simply a better way to live one’s life—happier, healthier and more open hearted—than the attitude of greed. The Daily Examen helps us with that, since we start out with gratitude. The Examen, if practiced over time, gradually instills in you the habit of giving thanks daily, so that every day is Thanksgiving.