The Truest Form of Gratitude
Interestingly, our readings for today brought to mind several recent writings I’ve encountered. We first see the Israelites murmuring in the wilderness once more, never to be sated. Indeed, St. John Chrysostom compares their behavior to that of children! He writes:
“as children who have been a long while at school [desire to quit] it, so also were they … continually desiring Egypt, … saying, “We are lost, we are wholly consumed, we are utterly undone.” … [H]aving [taught them lessons, but] finding they had not learnt them, he would punish them. … For what else was the punishment of your enemies but your benefit? And in other respects too, He benefited you. … [They said] that they knew the power of God, but when asked [about this] knowledge, they could not give it, and therefore were beaten. … When fed with their manna they ought not to have asked for luxury, seeing they had known the evils which proceed from it.” (Homily IV on Col. i. 24)
Unfortunately, this passage from Exodus isn’t one that we can retrospectively scoff at while we shake our heads in disbelief at the blindness of the Israelites. Do we not all desire more, even though we claim to be aware of the graces that Our Lord has granted us? If He allows us twenty-nine days of stress-free bliss, why do we deem it proper to complain if our thirtieth day isn’t also picturesque?
We see, however, that He is faithful always to us. (See also Augustine, Enarrationes in psalm., XCV.XI) But with all things, there are conditions to our requests. St. John Chrys., again, writes that “if all things are there, and you ask [appropriate] things, and contribute your own part, and exhibit an apostolical life, and have concord and love towards your neighbor, you will obtain … your [request]; for the Lord is loving towards man.” (Hom. LX on Matt. XVIII)
You may have heard the adage that our will is not always the will of God, Whose intentions are perfect. Therefore, to seek this directive will of God, that we may better strive for what He wants for us, we must allow Him to shape us into pinnacles of holiness. I recently wrote a letter to a dear friend. In it, I briefly explored the concept of our “old” and “new” lives that we experience as Christians. I wrote:
“When a hand has a callus, it’s protected against all external elements. It doesn’t feel rough textures and is safe from most harm. At the same time, though, it doesn’t feel the softness of objects, it feels rough to others, and it experiences a dulled reality. But a hand that has been taken care of and softened over time loses these calluses. Nerve endings are reinvigorated and may be sensitive at times, but are nonetheless opened to sensations previously unknown. Cold things may feel colder, hot things may singe more intensely, but ultimately feeling has returned and has allowed this hand to experience life rather than simply shield against it. [In this new life, you begin] to grow less calloused. And so you probably will feel more vulnerable. But now you’re experiencing. …
You now have the opportunity to re-form your new life made possible by the healing and restorative Hand of Christ Jesus. … You were once like a lump of unmolded clay. You let things stick to you, but you didn’t let yourself make changes. Once the Lord brought you up from the waters of Baptism and infused you with His Spirit, He began to form you into the image of the [person] He intended you to become. He lovingly removed the impurities that had attached themselves to you over time and He carefully revealed edges and textures you never knew existed within you.“
Let us all take note of the Divine Sculptor and show the greatest appreciation by allowing Him to continue His work, that we may one day adorn the heavens by the masterpieces He has formed us to be.