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April 4, Tuesday 5th Week of lent - Jesuits of North-West Africa Province | Society of Jesus

Time To Be Grateful Even When You Really Don't Feel Like It.

Tuesday, Fifth Week of Lent

April 4, 2017

Nm 21: 4-9/ Ps 102: 2-3. 16-18. 19-21/ Jn 8: 21-30

By *Br. Francis Erzuah, SJ

The readings of today bring to mind a word familiar with every Jesuit, gratitude; giving thanks. As a Jesuit and a teacher, there are times that I grow tired of complaints and murmuring of a particular student. Like the Israelites, such students remind me of my own mistakes before God. Yes, I know about gratitude and giving thanks, but when our patience is worn out by troubles and distress by the journey, we find ourselves complaining against God and the "Moseses" in our life, just like the Israelites.

In, December and January, New Year's Day, giving thanks can start to feel like a command performance rather than a genuine act. As a Jesuit, I have been infused with the full spirit of gratitude. In fact, every Jesuit has been "inoculated" against the deadly disease of "ingratitude," but, I cannot turn on gratitude, just because it's a New Year's Day. It does not come automatically. In fact, no big promotion day may even be the best time to make gratitude a priority a narrow escape of being caught by a spouse in infidelity. Gratitude happens in quiet pauses and moments, not when we have plenty of food and water like the Israelites in Egypt.
So, how do we embrace the Lenten Season sincerely? Gearing up for gratitude in anticipation of Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, Birthdays and Thanksgiving Day can be subtle.

In Hebrew, according to my Old Testament professor and friend, the term for gratitude is hakarat hatov, and the literal translation is "recognizing the good". It is not about finding new forms of positivity in life, but rather about reorienting yourself around the things that you should already be grateful for. It is not just the big, obvious ones - good health or a job promotion- but small things too. Growing up in Half Assini, a small town in Ghana, there were times that we had no water. I had to go fetch water from a distance, boil and filter, before I could use. Today, I do not have to go far to fetch water, and so on. Every time I go under the shower, I always say to myself internally - and often out loud - how grateful I am. Look for the little things and say "thanks" out loud.

In today's reading, the Israelites only complained. Remember, life is about giving, receiving, and repaying. We are called to gratitude, even when you really don't feel like it. From psychological perspective, when your brain thinks you have to do something, it will be more likely to resist. Only when you feel like you are choosing to do something can it be authentic. Just knowing this is usually enough to inspire a more grateful outlook during this Lenten Season and on our life.

*Br. Francis Erzuah, SJ, is a brother who teaches at the Jesuit Memorial College in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. 

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