Imagine the gifts under a Christmas tree when a large extended family gets together to celebrate. There are presents of all sizes and shapes. There are gifts in a variety of wrappings, some clothed with exquisite paper and delicate ornaments, some bundled in simple brown paper, and some hidden underneath the pile. Guessing what’s inside is one of the most enjoyable parts of the celebration.Now let’s take the experience of our imaginary Christmas tree into the daily workings of a parish. Did you wake up this morning excited to see what gifts and blessings awaited you? Did you appreciate the visitor’s car in the driveway and anticipate an interesting interaction with a member of your parish family? Rather than seeing the giftedness that others offer, sometimes it is tempting to only see how they may annoy us. How can we view ministry as an opportunity to explore the gifts that we and others can provide for the Body of Christ? Here are a few ideas for adopting an “attitude of gratitude."
- Recognize God as the ultimate gift giver. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul reminds us that God is for us, which is our greatest gift. He then challenges us to have confidence about all other gifts and needs. He writes, “God is for us ... He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not … give us everything else?” (Romans 8:31–32). Each day is a new incarnation of God’s love; and, if this is true, then it is appropriate to ask: “What hasn’t God given us?”
- Take stock of your blessings from God. What has God given you? Life, health, family, food, nature, and friends, and the gift of your talents offered in ministry to and for others. Take an imaginary walk through your parish and thank God for each parish member and your colleagues in ministry. These gifts are not earned. They are freely given by a loving God.
- Identify and act on our gifts. How can we be drawn to a deeper life of discipleship out of gratitude for God’s great gifts? Whatever gifts and talents God has entrusted to us can be cheerfully and willingly shared for the benefit of others. In the preface to the book, Living Your Strengths, Albert Winseman says, “You are uniquely created by God and endowed with talents and gifts that are yours and yours alone—the discovery and development of these talents is key to your well-being. God wants you to be you and not somebody else, but you.” (This book contains a self-assessment well-suited for people in ministry.)
- Draw out others’ giftedness. As leaders, we are in a unique position to empower others to use their gifts for the common good. In 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, St. Paul lists the many gifts he saw in his community in Corinth. In the document, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis writes, “These gifts are meant to renew and build up the Church. They are not an inheritance, safely secured and entrusted to a small group for safekeeping; rather they are gifts of the Spirit integrated into the body of the Church.” We can make it our responsibility to be like Paul in recognizing and calling forth the Spirit’s many gifts in our community.
When we tap into the talents of the community, we invite people into a deeper sense of belonging with the parish—a step on the path to greater missionary discipleship. So, say thanks for all the gifts waiting to be unwrapped and cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.”