Monday, November 23, 2015
Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
November 26th, Thanksgiving Day, is approaching, an original U.S. holiday that has spread to other countries.
As the bells ring inviting us to give thanks, everyone may wonder where to channel their appreciation.
Some people may give "thanks to life," gracias a la vida, as Violeta Parra sang, but without questioning who is the author of life.
Others will direct their gratitude to a chimera called "good luck." There are atheists and agnostics who profess great faith in chance; they do not believe in God, but in the fortuitous, as well as in Mother Nature and fate. They will not pray on the 26th of this month. The celebration will be reduced to savoring a roasted turkey with the essential trimmings; it will be more of a pig-out without transcendent meaning.
There will be many who will say that they have made themselves. What creators! They will say that they just have to congratulate themselves because they are so talented and industrious. Such practice is a form of worship call egotism. They do not even think of inquiring about the ultimate origin of their talents and robust health.
Finally, many will thank God, from whom all good comes, by practicing daily prayer and not just on the fourth Thursday of the 11th month.
Jesus taught us the prayer of petition, but also of thanksgiving. During his public ministry, He gave evidence of practicing this method of prayer: "I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth..." (Luke 10:21).
It is important not to exclusively associate God’s benevolent action with what is sweet and nice. On Thanksgiving Day, many will review the pleasant events of 2015. They will thank God only for successes in their studies or jobs, for overcoming health crises, for harmony at home and for so many bits of heaven that we taste here on earth. To them, God only has to do with what pleases us.
But St. Paul teaches us to "in all circumstances give thanks" (1 Thes. 5:18), not only in prosperity. He fervently urges to give "thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father" (Eph. 5:20). That "for everything" includes the painful experiences of life.
Faithful believers never forget a valuable Pauline teaching, "All things work for good for those who love God" (Rom 8:28). They look at the setbacks, failures and disappointments as blessings in camouflage. Everything can become a precious source of experience and wisdom. The sufferings open our eyes and remind us that we are passing through this "valley of tears." In addition, our crosses associate us with the redemptive mission of Christ. St. Paul expresses this association to the Colossians: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church" (1:24).
The fourth Thursday of November would be superficially celebrated if we only gave thanks to God for the temporary goods that we need for our fleeting time on earth. A mature thanksgiving does not stop at the small gifts, but reaches to God himself, the supreme gift par excellence.
There is a prayer for the Mass on festive days that says, "We thank you for your great glory." We thank God for his existence and his generosity as He gives himself to us. He is embraced with faith, hope and charity. Whoever receives God as supreme good, experiences the truthfulness of the Teresian verses: "He who has God lacks nothing: God alone suffices."