by Linda Wihl
St. Ignatius believed ingratitude to be “the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.” Thanksgiving is all about gratitude and thus the antithesis of evil.
I love e. e. cummings. I often contrast his thoughts, “i thank thee God for most this amazing day the leaping greenly spirits of tree and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes” and “you notice nobody wants less (not to mention least) i observe nobody wants Most (not putting it mildly much) maybe because everybody wants more (& more & still More) what the hell are we all morticians?” These are the choices we have gratitude or greed, death or eternal life!
Sometimes when sifting through the Examen my thoughts of gratitude make me down right giddy and if it’s nighttime I’m too excited thinking grateful thoughts to sleep. Sometimes when I’m praying about my desires I’m pretty short-sighted and more “wish list” narrow minded and my thoughts depress me. Consolation, desolation the pendulum swings. (Not that God ignores the wish list but my wanting “more” leaves me mortified at times.)
There’s a popular post being shared these days about a young man, Ben Breedlove, who died of a genetic heart problem at the age of 18. He had had several brushes with death and during one found himself in what he called “heaven’s waiting room”. He didn’t want to leave but was resuscitated. Having had a near death experience I echo his experience of “peace that passes understanding” such a profound feeling beyond words!
Advent is a time of waiting! It is a time of preparing the way, letting go of all the things that destroy peace, like wanting more. Waiting out in heaven’s waiting room & talking with the spirits of those who’ve gone before who assure us that the Light is always on & waiting up for us.
The women and men of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps get this. They choose gratitude over greed, hope over fear, light over darkness. They find in serving others the richness of being served. They tend to be more comfortable waiting out heaven. “It’s not just about adding years to your life but life to your years!” What are you grateful for?
In the darkness of this winter may we find solace in the prayer of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “When the signs of age begin to mark my body (and still more when they touch my mind); when the ill that is to diminish me or carry me off strikes from without or is born within me; . . .in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is you . . .who are painfully parting the fibers of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within yourself.”
Linda Wihl is the Greater Cincinnati IVC Regional Director (or as some of the volunteers call her, “the matchmaker”). As the Executive Director of Making Sense of Language Arts, she is also a service site partner and sponsor. Her favorite title is “grandma!”