Here’s Fr. Dirk’s homily from Thanksgiving Day:
Gratitude is a tricky thing. People always want you to make a list of the things you’re grateful for, and you’re supposed to be able to help pull yourself out of a funk by listing three or five or a hundred things you’re grateful for, but it doesn’t work that way. You have to have the capacity for gratefulness before you can make a list. If you’re in one of those places where you’re having trouble feeling grateful – you know, a gratitude crisis – you’re not going to be able to come up with a list that you care about.
Trauma is great for killing gratitude. People with a history of trauma – abuse of any kind, unresolved loss – can have a hard time feeling grateful for anything. That’s a hard, small, and mean place to be in. I’ve been there a time or two, and I know lots of us have. But it doesn’t have to be a forever thing. There is healing. Time heals, and prayer, and friendship, and deep breathing. Sometimes we need the help of a professional. In short, the capacity for gratitude is a natural thing and a gift, but we have to be ready to receive the gift. Our gratitude machinery has to be in working order.
Once it is, oh my. Some amazing things happen. We begin to feel gratitude for the craziest things. Like the color blue. Look around you and find something that’s blue. Our windows are the most obvious things, but they’re not the only things. Now just look at your blue object for a few seconds. Remarkable, isn’t it? Blue. What a thing.
A grateful Christian is a beautiful thing. You begin being grateful for things just because they are. And for things you might never have thought much about. Like, say, buttons. The lowly button. Such simple and humble things, and yet without buttons your clothes would be all over the place. So there’s buttons, and glass, and dogs, and trees, and rabbits, and hawks. Yesterday I saw a hawk sitting on a lamppost in the middle of a parking lot. And three hawks often sit on top of our towers, keeping their sharp eyes on City Park. Remarkable.
Once your gratitude engine is up and running, it’s possible to feel gratitude even for hard things and for life’s challenges. As our Buddhist friends say, every person is your teacher. You have something to learn from everyone. Those lessons – tough as they are – can be priceless.
In a moment you’ll have a chance to come up and say one thing you’re grateful for. It’s OK. You’re among friends. And you don’t have to think too hard about it. It doesn’t have to be a big or profound thing. It could be something as simple as cranberry sauce. If it’s lima beans, well, more power to you. Meanwhile, I’ll start by saying that I’m grateful beyond measure for you and for every one of you and for this building and for our Loyola Parish. Happy Thanksgiving.