By: Carla McKenzie

As I walked down the pavement after mass a few Sunday’s ago, I revelled in the warm Autumn sun. I’ve just moved to a new town this year and was overwhelmed by the beauty of it – the mountains before me, the cloudy sky and the peaceful Sunday streets of this small town. I suddenly felt so overjoyed by all the good things in my life. I felt the contentment of my current phase and place of live. Joyful for how all my material needs are provided for, for meaningful work and the freedom to choose to do it and finally for the love and concern of family and friends.
And the natural follow on from this joy: something terrible is going to happen to me soon.
Sound familiar? I have been reflecting on it a bit and concluded that in moments of great happiness we mostly have one of three responses:
a) This is too good, it can’t last, something bad is definitely coming (thereby bringing a joyful moment rapidly to a close);
b) I don’t deserve this. So many people suffer and here I am enjoying my life (thereby drowning a joyful moment in a sea of self-indulgent guilt).
c) This feels so good, how can I make it last (thereby wiping out any trace of authenticity as I descend into forced sentimentality, trying desperately to preserve a feeling that was only ever meant to be fleeting).
In becoming aware of the ridiculousness of my response, I had a moment of insight. My insight was this: that the only appropriate response to joy is gratitude.
Gratitude is the fullness of any moment of pure joy. It brings it to completion. It is the appropriate response because it exists in the present, as do joyful moments.
Gratitude is the antidote to a) catastrophizing, b) guilt for that we have which we do not feel we deserve, and c) inauthentic sentimentality. It is an acknowledgement that we exist in a vulnerable state and that most of what happens to us is out of our control and we can merely hope to trust enough to be able to receive the gifts and accept with grace the hurts and sufferings.
Finally, feeling and expressing gratitude is also a way that we can complete the cycle: for everything comes from God and in being grateful, we turn ourselves towards God in loving relationship and thus, everything we have returns to God.
In all of this, I am reminded of the words of St Ignatius of Loyola’s famous ‘Suscipe’ prayer:
“Take Lord and receive,
My memory, my understanding, my entire will,
all that I have and possess.
You have given all to me.
To you I return it.
Dispose of it entirely according to your will.
Give me your love and your grace,
This is sufficient for me”
-The Suscipe prayer, St Ignatius of Loyola

 

 

 


 

About Author: Carla McKenzieProfile Carla

I’m a final year medical student, living in George on the beautiful Garden Route. I love my work though it often take a lot out of me. To recuperate, I enjoy being in nature, reading and knitting, (I am currently knitting my first jersey!) I’m an adult convert to Catholicism and what I love most about the faith are the mystics and saints, Ignation spirituality and the potential for the church to be truly catholic, or universal – for all and for any.