The Independent Newsweekly
|March 4, 2004||
Vol. 1, No. 47
Mary Jo Leddy is a member of the Romero House community in Toronto and the author of Radical Gratitude.
The realities we take for granted can no longer be recognized as an amazing grace, can rarely astonish us into life, will never set us free.
A reflection for the second week of Lent
By Mary Jo Leddy
No amount of moralizing about the millions of starving people on this earth or self-conscious exhortations about the virtues of the simple life will break the force and direction of this craving - and the sense of perpetual dissatisfaction that it generates. Liberation from the craving that holds us captive will have to come from a more fundamental shift of attitudes.
There is a moment each day when it is morning before it is morning. Lent is a time to dwell in this moment. Darkness still hovers over the deep. Those who wait for the dawn, as Thomas Merton did in the hills of Kentucky, can hear it even before they see it. At first there are only the slight sounds of attunement as a chorus of birds assembles.
Slowly they gather into one great concerted song of supplication: Let it begin! Let us begin! May it begin again!
The birds are of one accord. They do not take the dawn for granted. When it bursts upon them, once again, as on the first day of creation, they give thanks once again for this once only day, to begin.
How we begin a day affects how we will live that day. Many of us begin the day in a rather mechanical way, jarred into motion by the ring of an alarm clock or the sound of coffee dripping. We have set the time to begin, or so we believe, and thus we take the possibility of each new day for granted. All the gadgets of technology leave us with the illusion that we are, or should be, in control of how our day begins, proceeds, and ends. Automatically we move, in the presumption of life.
In this culture, it is not easy to awaken to the marvelous gift of each day and to recognize that it is not necessarily so. We tend to take this ordinary beginning for granted, just as we take ourselves, and others, and the world -- life itself -- for granted.
Whatever and whoever we take for granted can easily become just another thing in our lives, something else to be worked on, managed, or consumed. We become oblivious. The realities we take for granted can no longer be recognized as an amazing grace, can rarely astonish us into life, will never set us free.
In the culture of money, we tend to have a ledger view of life. We add up the pluses and minuses and try to account for our lives. In the process, we miss the amazing fact that we even have a life to add up. We take being alive for granted and move on to a cost-benefit analysis. Lost in the process in the incalculable mystery of simply being alive. The liberation of gratitude begins when we stop taking life for granted.
We will be liberated from the captivity of craving for more only by an attitude of radical gratitude. To begin to understand this attitude we must throw away the ledgers of our lives.
Lent is a time to tear up the cost-benefit analysis that we have made of our lives. It is a time to begin each day gratefully. It is a time to become mindful of who and what we have taken for granted. It is a time to awaken to the God we have taken for granted.
Editor's Note: Come back to Global Perspective next week for more of Leddy's reflections for Lent. Some of the reflections are developed further in Leddy's book Radical Gratitude(Orbis, 2002).
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