Reflection: Embrace Your Aging with Gratefulness This Thanksgiving

In September “The Blessings of a Long Life” were celebrated by Pope Francis at the Vatican with thousands of people from all over the world in attendance. Since many of us have crossed the threshold of old age, including Pope Francis, he said, “…because of our experience, faith and wisdom, we deserve respect.” He reminded us that communities who don’t care for and respect their elders, don’t have a future because they will be rootless without their memories. We must keep our memories alive. Pope Francis encourages us to embrace our lives with confidence, day by day and to recommit ourselves to see the good in our lives, even when our hearts are heavy. Of course the question always remains: Can I see the blessing in my old age infirmities as they continue to grow on me? I think he’s telling us to fire up those engines (old as they may be), or simply to get up and look for the blessings that come with our elder years.

God is our secret to full joy, that which truly warms the heart. Gratitude is a greater part of this secret to full joy and isn’t the month of November our time to be thankful for all God’s gifts?

We can’t change the process of aging one bit, so what is there left for us to do? Be grateful! God considers us treasures and because of this we are a source of joy for him. Perhaps as this Thanksgiving Day draws near we can cultivate a list of blessings and show our gratitude to God. One must find his love for us in everything because if we are full of ourselves, not even God will be able to fill us up with love and gratitude.

Living a spirited life is what it’s all about as we grow older. It’s grateful living that makes every thankful moment spirited. Gratitude often refers to another person because we invest so much in their lives. Prepare a joyful meal for Thanksgiving with them and truly let your spirits soar. Is joy not at the basis of this kind of spirited gratitude needed by all? It’s living rather than dying, harvesting our wisdom and values and not only passing them on to future generations, but continuing to shine like stars ourselves.

In a religious context, God is always the “Giver” and we humans are the “Thanks – Givers,” and thus Thanksgiving can be sacred for us. It’s possible that our whole lives could be full of thanksgiving, all made possible by God, himself.

Our gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a new vision for tomorrow. Gratitude during the time of Thanksgiving is our door to many heavenly gifts. If we do not have gratitude we do not appreciate the greatest gift God gave us: the gift of Life.

Amazing things can happen if we permit them to come our way. At this time of Thanksgiving, we can develop a new point of view about this season of harvest. Has it taught us anything about our aging? We can only reap what we have sown. I see my aging as a blessing and a grace and not something to be feared.

Our gratitude this Thanksgiving is something of which none of us can give too much. It’s not the holiday we celebrate so much, or the weekend off, the food and friends, as much as it is our reflection on the person we have become with our experiences, our love of God, family and friends. How do they see us today? With or without turkey, our aches and pains remain with age, but one should have an overwhelming, joyful feeling of gratitude and thanksgiving. If your feelings are not of this nature, then you do not reflect enough on your blessings.

Fr. Murray Clayton once told me, “There’s a place in us where God sees himself and loves us there as we are and that we must find the ‘pearl of great price’ in ourselves and others and be grateful.” Be at peace and turn everything you do into a blessing. Happy Thanksgiving from Italy! No turkey for me for the fifth Thanksgiving away from home, but I am still grateful for all God’s blessings.

by Sr. Martinette Rivers, OLS

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