Thanksgiving: one of God’s favorite words Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Nov. 25, 2010 -- 1:00 AM

Mark Twain, the writer, reportedly once earned five dollars per word. Someone playfully wrote him, “Mr. Twain, here is five dollars. Please send me your favorite word.” Mark Twain wrote back, “Thanks!”

Thanksgiving also is one of God’s favorite words. The word Eucharist, the center of Catholic life, means thanksgiving.

In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus cured 10 lepers of leprosy’s horrible disease, but only one leper, a Samaritan, thanked him. Jesus seemed hurt that the nine others did not thank him. Their ingratitude seems unbelievable, but there are similar examples.

Missed opportunities

On September 8, 1860, on Lake Michigan near Waukegan, Ill., the Lady Elgin, an excursion boat, collided with a schooner, the Augusta. Edward Spencer, a Methodist seminarian, plunged into the cold waters and saved 17 people from drowning.

After he rescued the last two persons, he collapsed. His heroism ruined his health and eventually made him an invalid.

Years later a reporter asked Edmund Spencer what he remembered most about his heroic rescues. He replied sadly that no one ever thanked him. The 17 persons reflected the ingratitude that the nine lepers showed to Jesus.

God has gifted us

We probably learn to be grateful from our parents. I opened the door at McDonald’s for a mother carrying a little boy, “Thank you, sir,” she said. Her little boy shouted, “Thank you sir, thank you.”

Gratitude begins when we see that God has gifted us. Then we respond by verbally thanking God or others. Or we share our blessings with others as the pilgrims did.

About half of the pilgrims died from scurvy and exposure to the elements during their first brutal winter in America. Yet, the survivors were so thankful they were alive that they invited Indian friends to share a three-day feast of thanksgiving and prayer.

Giving thanks through times of strife

Sometimes we fail to thank God for our blessings because we get so involved in activities that we forget about Jesus. St. Paul didn’t. Despite being in prison, in Philippians 4:6, Paul joyfully prayed, “Present your needs to God in every form of prayer and in petitions full of gratitude.” We begin our best prayers with praise and thanks to God.

Thanksgiving Day invites us to thank God for our blessings through prayer, thanking others, and sharing our blessings. Thanksgiving Day offers graced opportunities to thank family members. Dr. Nick Stinnett of the University of Nebraska did research which showed that families are stronger when members express appreciation to each other.

Since Eucharist means thanksgiving, we can thank God for our blessings by participating in a Thanksgiving Day Mass. We receive the body of Christ in order that we might be strengthened to give thanks by sharing with others.

On Thanksgiving and every day may we remember that one of God’s favorite words is . . . thanks.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.