This is Thanksgiving Day weekend, a time for shopping, overeating and football. Hopefully it is also a time of counting our blessings, so I want to take this opportunity to look at the experience of gratitude.
Gratitude is not so much a specific action like ‘thank you’ to someone as it is a mind-set, or better yet, a heart-set. It is an attitude, an approach to life. Gratitude is a fundamental awareness of having been blessed, and that makes a BIG difference. If we believe/sense/feel that God has been good to us in the past, and we trust that God is not some willy-nilly nit that is forever changing his divine mind or playing tricks, but rather that it is in God’s nature to be constant and faithful, then we can approach the future in trust rather than in fear. Trust in God’s goodness to us impels us to lead into life anticipating goodness, rather than holding back in caution and fear.
When we come to recognize that God blesses us, then we can be freed up to open ourselves in generosity, for we then do not have such a need to grasp and cling. After all, God is faithful and will continue to be good to us. As St. Paul tells us, “God who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” (Rom 8:32) We have been given God’s own beloved Son! We can count on God’s continued blessing.
Gratitude leads to freedom and that leads us to more life. Generosity is generative, that is, life giving, and generosity is the result of gratitude. Stinginess and greed are sterile, a form of death, for they center on the self and do not lead to life. This clasping attitude comes from fear and a failure to recognize our blessedness.
As Christians we have been exorbitantly blessed by God. Indeed, I think one of the problems with the Christian message is that it is so wonderful that it is almost too good to be true. We are hesitant to accept that we have been so wildly and extravagantly loved by God. How are we to react to such overwhelming love?
There is an old song by the Damiens that captures the appropriate response in the song’s refrain: “And all that we can offer you is thanks, and all that we can offer you is thanks.”
As Christians we are called to be people of gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!