The Tree of Gratitude: Part I

Jesus Christ shows us how to love the Father; he shows us how the Father loves us. And he reveals to us the Holy Spirit, who is the love that flows between the Father and the Son. By imitating Christ, we enter into that love, which is the deepest desire of our soul.

I offer four meditations for you to help identify your desire to enter into that love of the Holy Trinity. And upon entering that love, you will find the freedom to live in that love.

You may wish to use these meditations with a spiritual director or a trusted friend with whom you are comfortable sharing your faith. 


I. The Seed of Gratitude

I don’t love you, Lord. I don’t want to love you. But I want to want to love you.
— St. Teresa of Avila

I'm a lot like St. Teresa in this regard--I don't want to love God. But unlike her, I don't even know how to begin wanting to want to love God. Perhaps it's not necessary to know how. Let me start with God's love for me, and that should be more than sufficient.

Faith is the desire to love God. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for," we read in the Letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:1), and hope is the desire the Kingdom of Heaven--that is, the desire to live eternally in God's love (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817, 2819). Indeed, if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. (Matthew 17:20)

And this desire to love God grows from the seed of gratitude.

Gaze

Begin by centering yourself. Focus on the following psalm, slowly, intentionally. Don't read it with the eyes of your mind; rather, listen to the Word of God with the ears of your heart. Repeat it as many times as necessary. Let your breathing become smooth, peaceful, and calm.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.

--Psalm 100:4-5

Consider

Begin by thinking of all the things for which you are thankful. Make a list if you think that might help.

Review your list without judgment. Does any kind of pattern emerge? Are you thankful mostly for material comforts, or do personal relationships seem to dominate the list? Or are you thankful for things that are uniquely you--your gifts and talents?

As you consider the your list, begin to think of it as a door to a deeper sense of gratitude. This deeper sense of gratitude is not thankfulness for any particular thing; rather, is is gratitude for simply just being.

Imagine this door. What kind of door is it? Is it a heavy oak door or a glass door? Is it revolving door? A sliding door? What is door handle like? Is it decorated with a sign? Pay particular attention to the details.

What are your feelings toward this door? Is it inviting or does it scare you? Do you feel like you need permission to enter?

Now go through this door--enter into this place of deep gratitude. How do you proceed? Do you knock or do you barge in? Do you open it a crack and peek in, or do you feel like your are being swept or pulled in?

Contemplate

Enter this place of deep gratitude, and just sit silently in the thankfulness of just simply being. You may wish to repeat a simple mantra of your choice while you sit. "Thank you" would work just fine.

If any distracting aches, noises, thoughts, or feelings intrude, that's ok. Welcome them without judgment. Say to these distractions, "Thank you for being present with me" and let them either linger or go on their way.

After a few moments, gently move your attention to your heart. Draw this feeling of gratitude toward it. Remember this feeling and keep it in your heart. This is your seed of gratitude. Imagine what this seed looks like.

Imitate

Gradually return your attention to your surroundings. Begin by wiggling your fingers and toes. Gently move your arms and legs. Take in a deep breath and feel your chest or stomach expand. Look at your surroundings and smile. Say a silent prayer of thanksgiving.

Throughout the course of the next week, continue to reflect on this seed of gratitude. Try to spend some time each day praying this examen:

  • Recall that you are in the presence of God by sitting in silence for a few moments and saying a brief prayer or reading a short verse from Scripture.
  • Pray for freedom--acknowledge your attachments and aversions (that is, your desire that things were other than what they are) and accept things as they are with compassion.
  • Review your day. Walk through it moment by moment, without judgment. Simply observe your day. Look for those times that bring to mind that seed of gratitude in your heart. What were you doing? What did its presence--or absence--feel like?
  • Talk to Jesus about one of those moments. What would you like to say? It may be a simple thank you. You may wish to say nothing and just sit with him. Whatever it is, take note of his response.
  • Resolve to enter the next day from this place of deep gratitude.

May your the Lord bless you with health, harmony, happiness, and peace.