Be thankful for every day Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig enjoyed an early Thanksgiving Day. On Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day at Yankee Stadium, the Hall of Fame first baseman told 61,808 baseball fans that he was the luckiest man on earth.

At age 36, he was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis); yet, he was thankful because God gifted him with great athletic ability, wonderful fans, teammates, and a good family.

He was grateful for his caring mother-in-law and his father and mother who worked for years so he could have an education. He was especially thankful for his wife who was his tower of strength and showed more courage than he dreamed existed.

Acts of love for our gifts

Thanksgiving is a national holiday during which we thank God for our blessings. The roots of Thanksgiving go back to the pilgrims whom the Old Testament influenced. After a long hard winter during which half of them died from scurvy, exposure to the elements, and other causes, the pilgrims set aside three days to thank God for their blessings. One way they gave thanks was by sharing some of their blessings with Indian friends.

Parents and other significant adults teach us to be thankful. We learn to be grateful like the cured leper in the gospel, who returned to the temple to thank Jesus. The leper’s thanks represents an act of love for the gift and for the giver of the gift.

Open to God’s grace

Being thankful opens us to God’s grace. In the weekday preface IV of Ordinary time, it says, “Father all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give thanks. You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank You is itself Your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to Your greatness, but makes us grow in Your grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Our fragility helps us to appreciate our blessings because it reminds us that we can lose some of our gifts in the blink of an eye through accidents or other unexpected ways. Therefore we should appreciate our gifts while we still have them.

When we are grateful, we see that all we have is ultimately a gift from God. We might say that we worked hard and earned everything we have. No one gave us anything. If we see with worldly eyes, this may seem true to us. But in so doing we forget that God gifted us with health, ability to work hard, and opportunities to work.

Thankfulness important to health

Discouragement can keep us from being thankful. Satan showed a young devil a barn full of seeds to sow in human hearts. The young devil noticed that the seeds of discouragement were more numerous than the others. Satan bragged that these seeds grew almost anywhere. Then he admitted sadly that the one place where they never thrived was in the heart of a grateful person.

Dr. Hans Selye conducted experiments on ways our emotional state affects our health. He discovered two main causes of poor health were an attitude of vengeance and an attitude of bitterness. He concluded that the attitude most beneficial to our personal health is gratitude.

Offering our whole selves

In no. 1407 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, “The Eucharist is the heart and summit of the Church’s life.’’ Eucharist means “thanksgiving” in Greek. We come together at Mass to praise and thank God for our blessings by offering all that we are and have to our Heavenly Father through Christ.

At Mass, we are commissioned to go in peace to love and to serve the Lord by sharing our blessings with others. We can call, write, or visit a lonely person or invite them to a Thanksgiving meal. At our Thanksgiving meal, we can share our blessing with family and friends. We can thank someone whom we failed to thank. The Holy Spirit can show us other ways to be thankful.

We can thank God by participating in Mass on Thanksgiving Day. Personally I feel just as blessed as Lou Gehrig because I have the privilege of offering Mass as a priest. May we continue to thank God during Advent, Christmas, and every day.

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