A Catholic Monthly Magazine

A Thankful, Sunburnt Country?

By Fr Kevin
Bates sm

“Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” invites the priest at each Mass. We reply “It is right and just.” In this brief exchange, we capture the essence of Christian prayer and the essence of a Christian way of being in the world.

Being thankful is a central hallmark of the person of faith. This thankfulness is born of knowing that we are loved unconditionally by God. This thankfulness then becomes our gift to one another and to our world.

Saying “thank you” is one of the first things that we learned from our parents as little children. These two little words given graciously never fail to bring a smile or warm a heart.

Thankfulness is the prayerful attitude that underlies our prayer together. Our Eucharist, our great prayer of thanks, is meant to be the template for all our prayer and all our living.

Our parish school, Villa Maria, is undertaking a project this term centred on gratitude. Staff and children are becoming more mindful of the reasons to be thankful each day and giving expression to this with each other. They could be teaching us something!

When I’m thankful, and receive each day, each person, each circumstance, as a gift to be treasured, understood and explored, then instinctively I will be wanting to share the benefits I’ve received with anyone who passes me by.

A thankful heart, a thankful community, will be a grace to be reckoned with.

If thankfulness lives in the heart of each of us, the question arises as to why fear, rather than trust, shapes so much of the way we are with each other.

We have deadlocks not only on our doors, but in some cases on our gates, and, even more sadly, on our hearts. We are watchful in our dealings with one another. Much of the legislation which governs our life together is designed to protect us from one another.

We argue and go to lawyers to sort out our disputes over tiny bits of property where boundaries have gone wobbly! The list of such behaviours seems endless.

If we are like this locally, then no wonder our national spirit is suffering as a result.

For instance, why is it such a difficult thing for us to respond to the simple, unassuming request of our first Australians that they be mentioned appropriately in our Constitution and that they be given a voice that will be able to be heard in the Parliament? Our leaders are fluffing around looking for reasons why this may not be possible!

Why is it that we have developed such toxic policies and practices regarding the trickle of people seeking refuge here who have been unable to come to us through the ‘normal’ channels? Many other nations are managing this challenging situation with a compassion and sense of justice that is missing from our spirit.

Events such as the World Day of Migrants and Refugees may prompt us, for a minute or two, to reflect on our stance towards each other, but in the end, self-interest always seems to have the last word. We retreat behind our barriers and leave the hard questions for others to answer.

Any pretence that Australia is a Christian country is long gone, but is it possible for us to reclaim some dignity and breadth of spirit still?

A good starting point would be for each of us to practice, more consciously, an attitude of thankfulness each day, with each other, and in the quiet of our own hearts.

The transforming effect of a spirit of thankfulness is something within the reach of each of us and will give birth to a new, infectious generosity of spirit around us.

Rather than give up on ourselves, our community, our nation, let’s refresh our spirits with a good dose of thankfulness, and see where that might lead us!

This article was written in August 2017

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