My thoughts (David Zier):
This is the last in our series of Psalms for the Thanksgiving season. Next week we will be moving into Advent and Christmas with the Book of Psalms.
When I first read this verse, and then additional verses deeper into Psalm 118, I realize that it is not always so easy to say “thank you God, your steadfast love endures forever.” I think it is good to have moments of gratitude and to make sure we are lifting praise and glad tidings and thankfulness, because it does lift our spirits, gives us reason for joy, and also provides some peace and calm in our lives. Studies have shown that giving gratitude affects our health in positive ways: lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and we don’t crave those bad for us foods so much.
But let’s be honest. We also need to be real and not superficial. There are times where it is not so easy to feel God’s steadfast love. I may know that it is there in my head, but when I am going through a week where my medication is making me nauseous and it becomes difficult to eat, thankfulness can turn to “blah.” When work is not going so good, or mom or your child’s health is failing, hope can turn into despair. Sometimes we just go through a season where everything around us seems to be better than the place we are standing. Thankful for what?
This may be the time to take a time out and deliberately look for God’s presence in your life. Even look at your emotions throughout the day and how you may be experiencing God, or not, as you go through the day.
About 400 years ago St. Ignatius encouraged prayer-filled mindfulness. He proposed what has been termed Daily Examen. It is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and to discern God’s direction for us.
Here is a version of St. Ignatius’s prayer adapted from Loyola Press.
1. ”Become aware of the presence of God.” Even after a difficult day, allow your self to unwind; imagine God’s presence with you; imagine what it would mean to be in the presence of God.
2. “Review the day with gratitude.” Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Even if it is in a short break in the day where you experienced a short walk, or the smell of good food, seeing a beautiful piece of art, experiencing the love of a child, or being with a co-worker where you were able to laugh at yourself or just a corny joke.
3. “Pay attention to your emotions.” Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. All of your emotions, wherever they took you in the day. Ask what God may be saying to you through those feelings. Were you able to sense God even in the worst times of the day? Could I be more mindful even in those times?
4. ”Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.” Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may be a vivid moment or something that seems insignificant. Maybe something stands out for you because there is a simple message for you. No matter how small that moment, allow it to become a prayerful moment; savor it and seek God’s direction on what it may mean for you this day or its significance for tomorrow. Then look at what lies ahead, and ask God to give you light for what you will face.
This is an example of what might help us feel God’s steadfast love, while honestly looking at the day, lifting in prayer our thankfulness, our emotions, and our journey into tomorrow.
Thought for the day: (Prayer) Spend some time examining your life in prayer. How do you see God’s steadfast love?
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.