In the United States on this day we pause in our lives for a secular holy day, a thanksgiving for our many personal and collective bounties. Sharing time with family and friends and reflecting at some level on the blessings we have received is the theme for the day.
The readings for today, though, carry a consistent message for me that thanks giving should be more than an annual event. Sirach calls on us to bless the God of all who has done wondrous things are earth. What are these wondrous things? Pause for a few moments to list all the things about our natural world and your physical life that are a wonder to you – these are the things for which we should give thanks.
The psalmist gives thanks for the faithfulness, love, kindness and truth that come from the Lord. The gifts of virtue and emotion, human interaction, integrity and honor come from the Lord, and we should give thanks.
Paul gives thanks for the spiritual gifts that come from Jesus – salvation, and discourse and knowledge and revelation of the path to God. These are the fundamental gifts that enable us to reunite with God, for which we truly should give thanks.
Jesus offers a gift of healing, but reminds us that our fundamental human nature tends toward self-centeredness rather than humble gratitude for all these gifts. The one cured leper, a Samaritan (one of the less-favored people of that time) gives thanks while the other nine ignore the source of their good fortune. How many times we have taken for granted God’s many gifts to us? How many times have we been like the nine instead of the one? Do we express our gratitude or exhibit an attitude of self-focus?
I sometimes pause in my day and feel the rising and falling of my chest, and give thanks for the gift of breath. As I walk across campus and my legs work, I give thanks for the functioning of this complex creation that is my body. I give thanks for the gift of hearing as the leaves crunch beneath my feet, and the gift of sight as the sun breaks over the horizon on these fall mornings with a glorious palette of colors. I thank God for the hug of friend when I am down, and for my ability to perceive that a friend of mine needs boosting in the same way. The cooing of a baby, the wisdom in an old woman’s eyes, the sacrifice made by those who protect our public safety, the inspiring dedication of my Jesuit colleagues, the touch of my wife’s hand, the sound of my children’s voices, all move me to give thanks.
My prayer today is to be aware in each day, each hour, each minute, each second, for the many gifts God has given me, and to develop the true attitude of gratitude that the Samaritan leper expressed toward Jesus.
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