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 Global Perspective

March 4, 2004
Vol. 1, No. 47

global perspective
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.

Liberating Gratitude

A reflection for the second week of Lent

By Mary Jo Leddy

Lent 2004
We North Americans are held captive by the sense of perpetual dissatisfaction generated by the culture of money in which we live and move and have our being. We are held captive by the culturally induced sense that we never have enough, that we never are enough. The centrifugal force of this craving draws everything into the consuming self, which is itself consumed in the process.

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.


We walk on the waters of gratitude

knowing there is nothing there
trusting there will be enough
to go on.
We were drowning in the boat
consumed by the work
of getting ahead, getting around
getting to it all.

Now we walk on held up
by nothing but memories
of how love becomes solid
when it is given away
of how loaves multiply
when shared among many
of how we become sure
and serene on the water.

It is only a radical sense of gratitude that will liberate us from this bind.

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.

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What we overlook begins to waste away. Will clean air and food come to us as a matter of course if we take the earth for granted? Can any relationships endure if they are merely taken for granted? What happens when we can neither take ourselves too seriously nor too lightly but only for granted?

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.

All that we take for granted
falls through our hands
and disappears from sight.
And we too fall away
from ourselves and from You.
We walk by ourselves
by the wayside
and do not recognize You
on the way to something better.

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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