Once upon a time, it was pretty easy to sing an Aria that moved on the musical scale from the lower G to the upper G. Now, it is my pleasant memory! The G I’m talking about, is what sucks the air out of a room, “grumbling.” Human beings complain a lot, from the weather to politics and everything in between. It would be wonderful if we could move more readily to “gratitude.”
In the sixth grade in school, I clearly remember Sister Antoinette saying, “When the weather is wet, you must nor fret; When the weather is warm, you must not storm; When the weather is cold, you must not scold; but be thankful together whatever the weather.” What wisdom!
Grumbling creates a negative atmosphere, which somehow encourages others to be negative too.
It appears that grumbling seemed to be a way of life for the Israelites in the desert. They grumbled against Moses and Aaron saying, “Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!” (Ex 16:3)
Re-reading Exodus 16, it is interesting to note that the author uses the term “children of Israel” seven times. These children probably grumbled due to hunger and fear. Undoubtedly theirs was a very long journey to the Promised Land. Out of compassion, God provided for them along the way. How quickly they forgot that God had rescued them from Pharoah, and parted the Red Sea for their escape.
Lest we judge them too quickly, many of us may be grumbling as we wander in our own wilderness. However, we are blessed with the “manna” that comes to us in the form of the Eucharist at every Mass. Scripture tells us to, “Rejoice always, never cease praying, render constant thanks; such is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes 5:16-18). This is difficult to do, but praying for God’s grace can get us to that place.
St. Paul reiterates, “In everything you do, act without grumbling or arguing;” (Phil. 2:14). We need a big dose of faith to raise us up, so that we can sing with the psalmist, “I lift up my eyes toward the mountains; when shall help come to me? My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 121:1-2)
How do we develop a culture of gratitude? So much depends on our attitude. St. Therese of Liseux had the right attitude when dealing with a difficult situation. She said, “There is one sister in the community who has a knack of rubbing me the wrong way at every turn; her manner, her speech, her character just strikes me as unlovable. But then, she is a holy religious; God must love her dearly. I was not going to let this natural apathy get the better of me…I determined to treat this sister as if she were the person I loved best in the world. Every time I met her, I used to pray for her…When I felt tempted to take her down with an unkind retort, I would put on my best smile instead.”
“One day she asked me, ‘What is it about me that gets the right side of you. You always have a smile for me’…What really attracted me about her was Jesus hidden in the depths of her soul; Jesus makes the bitterest mouthful taste sweet. I could only say that the sight of her always made me smile with pleasure – naturally I did not explain that the pleasure was entirely spiritual.”
As we become more aware that life is a gift that we unwrap each day, our gratitude flows out to others. Awhile back, I had just finished singing “You are my sunshine” at a long-term care centre where I did the singalong. A woman in a wheelchair reached out to me as I walked by, and with a big smile on her face she said to me, “You are my sunshine.” Gratitude flooded my spirit, because in a residence where people are usually grumbling about something, someone was grateful for the little I did to lighten her day. She gave me a big gift that afternoon.
Henri Nouwen is so right when he says, “Gratitude flows from the recognition that who we are and what we have are gifts to be received and shared.”
A friend of mine who has suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis for 38 years, radiates a peace and joy that is God given. She smiles instead of complaining, and prays to God, “Give me the grace to be content in the state in which you have placed me…Lord, I want to stay in the depths of absolute trust in you.”
It was on a Good Friday a few years ago, when a soprano voice rang out in our hushed church, “They crucified my Lord, and he never said a mumblin word. Not a word, not a word, not a word…”
Narrating the passion of Our Lord, her song pierced my heart, and the truth came home to me as never before, my Lord and Savior had suffered and died for me. Quiet tears flowed down my cheeks, for I was gently being invited to move from G to G – grumbling to gratitude.