Gratitude is our response to God’s blessings Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes, a column by Fr. Donald Lange

Thanksgiving is a national holiday when we Americans thank God for our blessings.

Origins of the holiday

Its roots go back to the pilgrims whom the Old Testament influenced. After a severe winter when over half of the pilgrims died from scurvy, exposure to the elements, and other causes, they set aside three days to thank God for their blessings. One way that they thanked God was by sharing their blessings with Indian friends.

The pilgrims can inspire us to thank God for our blessings on Thanksgiving Day by sharing with friends, family, and the needy.

The wounds of ingratitude

During Thanksgiving Day Masses, Luke 17:11-19 is often used. 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.

A young Northwestern student saved at least 17 persons from drowning in a Great Lakes shipwreck. Years later, a reporter doing the story on the shipwreck found him as an old man in a California nursing home.

He asked him what he especially remembered about that night. Sadly he said, “No one ever thanked me.” That hurts!

We learn to be grateful. When we were children, our parents taught us to be thankful.

All that we have is from God

The grateful person sees that everything they have is ultimately a gift from God. To realize this takes grace. Some may protest, “But I work hard for everything I have.’’ This may be true.

But the gifts of health, living in a country where we can work, and having energy to enable us to work are God’s gifts.

God gives us the gifts of life, parents, time, talents, resources, and faith. Our vocation is to use our gifts to help to bring about God’s kingdom and make the world a more Christ-like place.

Gratitude also helps marriages

Being grateful makes us more appreciative of life and deepens our relationships of love. In Enriching Your Marriage, James E. Faust wrote that gratitude is one of the secrets of a happy marriage.

When husband and wife show genuine gratitude and love to both God and spouse, it strengthens their marriage. Little grateful daily kindnesses that spouses give to each other can help them and their children grow in Christ-like love.

Columnist Dan Morris wrote that a note of gratitude can work wonders for a marriage.

Recognizing our blessings

Seeing what others don’t have can also make us grateful for what we have!

In the 1950s when I was in the Navy, our ship docked at Hong Kong for “R and R.” Our executive officer contracted Mary Soo and her Chinese side cleaners to paint our 500-foot-long ship for a few pieces of rope and our garbage, which they fed to pigs and sometimes ate themselves.

Some of us would purposely leave fresh food on our trays, which the Chinese ladies ate. Oh, we were generous!

Whenever I begin to complain about how bad things are, I think of Mary Soo and I thank God for my blessings.

How we should help others

St. John Chrysostom, an early Church Father, wrote, ‘‘Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and to deprive them of life.”

Before we enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner, we can thank God for gifts of food, fellowship, and family. We can pray for starving people who would gladly devour our scraps if they could.

We can share our gifts with the needy by contributing to food pantries, sponsoring a third world child, calling lonely persons, sharing meals with shut-ins, or in other ways. We can thank God for eyes to see, ears to hear, arms to embrace, and feet to go the extra mile for others.

The Holy Spirit will show us other ways to be thankful for our blessings, if we ask.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, perhaps we can involve our family in creative ways.

For example we could ask each person to write down five things for which he or she is grateful. Then we could ask each to share at least one blessing.

Someone might say that good friends are the hands of God reaching from heaven to embrace us with God’s love! Good friends are there when we need them. Our best friends are often our family.

Thankful for the Eucharist

We celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November.

We also celebrate Christ’s gift of the Eucharist on another Thursday, Holy Thursday.

In the opening prayer of the Thanksgiving Day Mass the priest prays, “Father, all powerful, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite; as we come before you on Thanksgiving Day with gratitude for your kindness, open our hearts to have concern for every man, woman, and child so that we might share your gifts of loving service.”

We can thank God for our blessings on Thanksgiving Day and every day. Since “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving,” perhaps we can participate in Mass on Thanksgiving Day.

May our Thanksgiving Day be filled with food, fellowship, gratitude, and Jesus’ love.

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