One of the first words a little child learns is ‘tata’. Parents ask their children: ‘what do you say [for the present]?’ It is mortifying for parents of older children when they are let down by their children’s failure to say a simple ‘thank you’ for a gift from a relative or friend. A parent feels embarrassed and it reflects poorly on them, they feel, that they have failed to pass on this lesson of good manners to their child.
Have you ever had the disappointing experience of going to the trouble of buying an expensive present, only for it be tossed aside? Or that the recipient has no inkling of the time and trouble you took to get them something you felt they would really appreciate? Or they expressed a wish for something and their response at receiving it finally is underwhelming and an anti-climax?
I shudder to think that I may well be guilty of showing a lack of appreciation to those who went to great lengths on my behalf to purchase a gift, or that I may have made some glib remark at receiving it which, while meant to be funny, may have fallen flat.
Further, I may be guilty of forgetting to get someone a present and feel terrible at leaving them out of things quite by accident.
It is hard to make up for these slights and personal injuries and hurt feelings, even if they were completely unintentional. We can excuse children but it is harder to excuse or forget instances involving ourselves or acquaintances who ought to know better. We have to let go of trivial grudges though and forgive others lest we inflate things out of all proportion and it sours relationships.
We all have ‘horror stories’ of weird or thoughtless presents! One of my favourite cringe stories is of a newly-married couple who received a wrapped wedding gift from relatives. On opening the gift they saw a card enclosed in the box which had been addressed to the donating couple from a third party who was the original donor of the present. The thoughtlessness was greatly resented!
We must practise not only giving well but receiving well. I remember not long after I was ordained being overwhelmed by people’s generosity, and the constant influx of Mass offerings was something completely new and unexpected. I asked my confessor, ‘how do I avoid the sin of avarice?’ He said: ‘be a generous giver, and a gracious receiver.’
We may have heard of the expression ‘an attitude of gratitude’, and it is a good one to develop. Gratitude counteracts feelings of envy, resentment at the sight of others’ blessings as well as ridding us of monotony, or self-centeredness. It helps us to be appreciative but also to be generous. One of the best habits I learned at home was to send ‘thank you’ cards as soon as possible. I haven’t always remembered though and I regret my forgetfulness. Which brings me to another piece of advice drilled into me worth recalling: ‘we always make time for what we consider to be important’.
How grateful then are we to God?
We have so much to be thankful for: health, happiness, holidays, family, faith, education, nourishment, nature, talents, as well as friendships and fond memories.
But today we honour and remember above all our most treasured gift: the real Presence of Christ - the gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. We can extend and apply all I have said above to examining ourselves for our gratitude (or the lack of it) for such a great gift. We take for granted the possibility of weekly and even daily reception of the Eucharist that the old adage about familiarity could be a danger. Haste, lack of preparation and appreciation for this great gift are things we need to watch out for and be careful to avoid.
Corpus Christi gives us the opportunity to give honour, praise and adoration as well as reparation to Jesus for our indifference and lukewarmness in the past to His gift to us of His very self. ‘The Eucharist is certainly a social event, that is, an ecclesial event, but it is above all a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.’ (Pope John Paul II, Corpus Christi Sermon 1999). Eucharist is the Greek word for ‘thanksgiving’ – in the Spirit, through Jesus to the Father.
To sum up, do I cultivate a sense of gratitude in my life for all the blessings I have received? Can I develop and deepen my time and habits of gratitude above all when I receive the flesh and blood of the Son of God who offers me eternal life?
‘How I can thank the Lord for His goodness to me? I will raise the cup of salvation and praise the name of the Lord’ (Psalm 116:12-13).