Monday, September 29, 2014

In saintliness, receptivity and gratitude often go hand in hand.

One common characteristic in the lives of many saints is the presence and abundance of gratitude.  The grace of God that permeates many of their lives indicate something very important that seems to be at the heart of what it means to live a holy life.  It is to live a grateful life, and to remember that one is never really a self-made man or woman. 

But to be able to be grateful for everything one has in life is a corollary to the gift of receptivity, as rightly pointed out by Fr. Rolheiser in his book “Against An Infinite Horizon.”  It is the lack of gratitude and receptivity that marks the beginnings of the original sin of our first parents, which is graphically presented in the creation story of Genesis.  What this story also shows is that there seems to be a slowness, or perhaps even a strange reluctance to be in a state of receptivity and following from that, gratitude in life.  It does seem that when one isn’t somewhat graced or taught and trained, one can grow up to have a sense of entitlement that easily contributes to one’s impatience, intolerance and false sense of superiority.  Their opposites – patience, long-suffering and humility find their roots when one knows early on in life that one came into the world with nothing, and will leave it with nothing. 

Declan, a dear nephew of mine lives with the condition known as Muscular Dystrophy (MD).  People with MD have a very weakened musculoskeletal system, hampering their movement.  A most charming boy of 13 now, he relies heavily on the use of a wheelchair for mobility in school and at home.  What strikes anyone who has the privilege to meet him is his constantly joyful demeanor, and how positive he is about everything in life.  One can just imagine that a boy who is confined to a wheelchair can become angry, bitter and indignant when he sees his friends and classmates happily running around and kicking a soccer ball in the field.  But not Declan.  Ask him any day how his day went, and with a brightness and cheer that comes from deep within, he will answer “great!”  In all the years that I have known him, I have never heard him complain of his condition.  He manages to see so many things as gift, and each time I visit him in his room, I have a sense that this boy has the innate ability to teach me something about receptivity and gratitude in ways that many books cannot. 

This spirit of thankfulness and gratitude that I see so clearly in life in him is constantly giving me the mindfulness of being thankful for the many people who have helped me through my chemotherapy sessions and subsequent hospital treatments.  Nurses who came to do the smallest of things like clearing my urine bottle in the middle of the night, taking many many vials of blood samples at 4am each day, or who gave me my many medications left my room very often with a word of thanks.  Some of them said it was unnecessary to do so as if they had done something extraordinary to merit such gratitude.  To me, they did more than just their job. 

I grew in my consciousness that much in life comes to us as gift, sometimes wrapped in service, often in mere presence and a kindly demeanor.  These are not owed us.  They are gifts given.  If I were not given the grace of my experience of having blood cancer, I don’t think I would have come to this realization that forcefully and convincingly.

When Jesus taught his sermon on the mount and declared that blessed are the poor for the kingdom of heaven is theirs, he was saying that there is a certain concealed advantage that poverty, which includes other sufferings like illness, failure in life, embarrassment, a personal shamefulness, and disability, provides.  These are very often hidden pathways through which one can attain a greater grace.  Sure, without the proper mindset and attitude, they can also trigger things very negative in people like rancor, rage, envy and many forms of irritations.  But when channeled well and with a willingness to live under the shadow of the Cross, a transformation is made possible.

Adam and Eve’s desire to take rather than receive with a receptivity and gratitude marked their (and our) downfall.  Our return to grace and eventually heaven has to teach us of the need to live not in a spirit of entitlement, but one of receptive gratitude.  When this is lived out, we will soar in the Lord even though our physical limbs may be weakened.


  1. Thank you frLuke. Declan is blessed, you are blessed and i am blessed too, for we have found God; not only finding Him, but He lives in us. Without the grace of God, i will not know gratitude. Not knowing gratitude, i was demanding, haughty, unreasonable ..... And so Lord, i thank You too.


  2. Salute to Declan and to you too, Fr Luke. Having that extra quality of gratitude towards God and people (including those who run our country) does make a great difference in the way we accept ourselves and live each day. When people do something, it's not just because they're paid, duty-bound, or need 'to feel good', but often they do it with love. And that's what I've experienced. People have gone beyond themselves specially for me. So what if my throat will never be the same after the radio-therapy. I can still croak love songs and feel blessed with that. Ignatius

  3. “In saintliness, receptivity and gratitude often go hand in hand.”

    At today’s Gospel reading, celebrating the feast of the Little Flower, we heard Jesus say that “..........unless you become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.....” Strangely enough, peppered in the first reading , the Responsorial Psalm and even the Gospel Acclamation -were rather startling words like................... “ fondling nurslings in the lap, weaned child on its mother’s breast and revealing the mysteries of the kingdom to mere children”! There is seemingly, much ado about child and children in today’s liturgical readings !. This is surprisingly radical teaching - because in the general world context of that time, a child(like widows, orphans and women) is considered a nothing. Why is Jesus’ teaching always so fascinatingly tantalizing?

    Jesus is highlighting the child’s openness and humble trust in God – verging on total dependency on God. It is about a child’s open simplicity and gratefulness to receive whatever the Giver chooses to pour into his lap. The secret of St Therese of Lisieux is her “Little Ways” - the way of a child .........doing small things with much reach the heart of God..............the heart that is Love. And not surprisingly, this is the heart of the Christian faith too.

    To have a spiritual childhood like that of St Therese means to have a welcoming heart and a patient, listening receptivity - not jaded apathy or passivity. A Catholic priest who happened to be a Yogi and meditator once shared that receptivity is the door to the divine. It is an attentive child-like vulnerability to wonder and mystery, a dropping off of all one’s baggage/garbage just to be in silent receptivity.................. perhaps, even a surrender................. before an encounter ?

    Receptivity and gratitude are seen in St Therese’s response to God’s gift of a beautiful sunset which she witnessed from the open window of her Infirmary. Watching the rays of the sun touching the tops of the rustling leaves and branches of the trees and hedgerows standing in the shadows, she exclaimed that similarly, our lives darkened by suffering or pain, would be gloriously resplendent through the touch of God.

    God bless you, Fr.


  4. Dear Father Luke,
    The moment we are born, we are given the gift of lives by anointing us with the Lord's breath. Life will not be a celebration, until we receive the mission, be submissive and accomplish it by our abiding union with the Lord.
    In Saintliness, receptivity ,gratitude cum self-sacrificing often go hand in hand. It is still beyond my reach.

  5. Thank you for this meditation on gratefulness and receptivity - it is through the power of being brave enough to be vulnerable that means we are open to being receptive and growing.