The holiday season moves into full swing at the end of November with our annual celebration of Thanksgiving. It is marvelous when we are able to have an attitude of gratitude. God is our provider, the giver of every good gift, so when it comes to giving thanks, our first expression of gratitude should be directed to almighty God. Jesus stressed the importance of thanking God when he asked the Samaritan leper who had been healed, “Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” (Lk 17:18).
Following the lead of Jesus, his Master, St. Paul exhorts us to be grateful to God. Paul instructed new Christians to “Be thankful” (Col 3:15). He also said that believers should be “singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16). He also taught that we should “Give thanks to God the Father through him [Jesus]” (Col 3:17).
This point is emphasized at every Mass when the priest says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” and the congregation responds, “It is right and just.”
At Thanksgiving, even though it is a civic holiday, it is an extremely beneficial spiritual exercise to set aside a few moments to count one’s blessings. Make a list. Consider life and health, family and friends, talents and abilities, opportunities and accomplishments, financial and material blessings.
While the world focuses on material blessings, please do not forget to count your spiritual blessings: the Father and creation; Jesus and his gospel, the Eucharist, his saving death on the Cross, and our salvation and redemption; the Holy Spirit, inspiration and guidance, faith and grace, energy and power, courage and conviction, contrition and forgiveness. Apart from God, we would have nothing. God has blessed us with everything that we have.
As we become increasingly aware of our countless blessings, it should lead us to give God greater praise and thanks, and one of the best ways to express our gratitude is in prayer. The Greek word eucharistos means “thankful,” and as Catholics we believe that the best way to thank God is at the Eucharist, our prayerful celebration of the Mass.
St. Paul also recommends hymns and psalms, sung at Mass, or anywhere, anytime. It also is an excellent spiritual practice to thank God in our personal private prayer each and every day.
Please consider making prayer a central part of your celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday. The ideal way would be to attend Mass. Also, before sitting down to the Thanksgiving dinner, take a moment as a group to offer thanks with your meal prayers.
On Thanksgiving Day, take some time between rising and retiring to go off by yourself to a private place, be quiet, reflect, list your blessings, and offer God your personal prayer of thanks.