," Colbert, slightly changing emphasis in the retelling. "And with
existence comes suffering. There is no escaping that. I guess I'm either a Catholic or a Buddhist
when I say those things."
There's more: "If you are grateful for your life...then you have to be grateful for all of it. You
can't pick and choose what you're grateful for. And then, so what do you get from loss? You get
awareness of other people's loss, which allows you to connect with that other person, which
allows you to love more deeply and to understand what it is like to be a human being if it is true
that all humans suffer." Colbert went on to say that this is partly why he is a Christian, because
in Jesus, God comes to suffer among us. In several places in the gospels, it says that Jesus
regarded the people with compassion, a word which literally means "suffering with." Karen
Armstrong says that word is at the heart of all great religious traditions. That's something for
which we can give thanks.
Scripture calls us to give thanks in all things. That doesn't mean we don't wish bad things hadn't
happened. But the difficult things, which we all know something about, can become a bridge,
creating deeper connection with God and neighbor. Going back to the gospels, I imagine that
the best teachers were those who knew suffering.
Give thanks in all things? It reminds me of a college friend, who ended his religion papers with
the acronym SOKOP: Sounds okay on paper. Easier said than done. That is certainly true when it
comes to gratitude in the face of suffering. All of this, it seems to me, must be our own interior
work. A person of privilege like myself can only tell myself to be grateful in the limited suffering
I've experienced. Mostly rich people problems. I can't tell that to people who become deathly ill
with no warning, to toddlers put in cages, to parents separated from children, to spouses
widowed after gun violence, the list is unending.
I can only enter into the counter-intuitive dynamic by which greater human community is
gained through loss. It's a message of resurrection. It's Easter after Good Friday. May we each
be given grace to act on the challenging scripture from I Thessalonians (5:18):
In every thing
give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
This small piece of writing from Henri Nouwen is particularly relative to this discussion.
Blessings and peace...
Fr. David +
Gratitude as the gospel speaks about it embraces all of life: the good and the bad, the joyful and
the painful, the holy and the not so holy. Is this possible in a society where gladness and
sadness, joy and sorrow, peace and conflict remain radically separated? Can we counter the
many advertisements that tells us, "You cannot be glad when you are sad, so be happy: buy this,
do that, go here, go there, and you will have a moment of happiness during which you can
forget your sorrow? Is it truly possible to embrace with gratitude all of our life and not just the
good things that we like to remember?
Jesus calls us to recognize that gladness and sadness are never separate, that joy and sorrow really belong together, and that mourning and dancing are part of the same movement. That is why Jesus call us
to be grateful for every movement that we have lived and to claim our unique
journey as God's way to mold our hearts to greater conformity with God's own. The cross is the
main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain and to reaffirm the
resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of
our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life.
from an article called "All is Grace", Weavings, Vol. 7,
No. 2, 1992