Thanksgiving is not confined to one day a year; it underscores everything we do in our love for God, ourselves and our neighbors. First, we are grateful for the church calendar which reminds us about the history of our faith and why it means so much to us. We start the year with Advent, the birth of Jesus which the shepherds celebrated first. Then, along comes Epiphany when the magi arrived at the stable to greet the baby Jesus with gifts and blessings. We move on to Lent, a 40-day period to remind us of the coming death and resurrection of Jesus. And then to Pentecost and the instilling of the Holy Spirit in the disciples so that they could speak to anyone in the world just like Jesus did. And so on. I don’t want to forget all the saints’ days which remind us of our fellow Christians from the past who faithfully served God in all different kinds of ways, just as we are called to serve God in the way most natural to us. They inspire us to be God’s servants, too.
Thanksgiving/gratitude is the most important part of our devotion to God, for how can we be devoted to God if we are not grateful for the life we were given, for our life on this beautiful planet Earth, for the gifts and talents and even challenges we’ve been given so that we might bring them all together in service to God. Are we not grateful for the family and friends who have accompanied us on this journey through life? Grateful for our spouses and our children and grandchildren? Do we see all that the Lord is doing for us each day, in every part of our lives? Are we not thankful for those blessings? And what about all the suggestions, the direction of our lives, the healings He has graced us with, the transformation that He has accomplished in us that we could not manage ourselves? And, as to our purpose, what did He put into our lives, what lessons were we taught by the difficulties and pain we went through, that we can now use in our service to God, in fulfilling our purpose here on earth?
Without gratitude to God we are left with resentment, with how we want our lives to go—mostly easier and happier than what does happen. We feel unloved by God when He doesn’t answer our prayers exactly as we imagine the perfect solution to be. We are restless and not at peace. We may look like “good Christians,” but what about our inner condition? Is it also loving and non-judgmental? Is it full of mercy and justice? Of love and forgiveness? Or do we wallow in our unhappiness and blame God for not loving us by answering our prayers and what we requested.
God’s love is not like the emotional, human kind of love. His love extends to everyone in every place.[Matt 5:45] It sees no hierarchy of humans based on success in the world, on riches or power. His love shines on the poor and needy and the rich, the good and the bad. It blesses everyone with a purposeful life if we choose to repent of the world and come back to God. God’s love is full of forgiveness. After all He designed us, imperfect as we are, and forgives us all those imperfections. And then graces us with the wherewithal to redeem our whole lives from sin so that we can be good servants of Our Creator.
It doesn’t matter if we can sense God’s presence; He is there with us in everything. If we don’t hear His “still, small voice,” [1 Kings 19:12] He is still speaking to us. God is active in our lives and in our world whether we can see and hear Him at all. And how many times did Jesus talk about those who can hear and see? God designed this whole universe and this planet with its interdependent system of plants and animals; scientists estimate that there are 7 to 8,000,000 species of plants and animals here alone, even though they’ve only named about 1,000,000 of them. And doesn’t He care about every hair on our heads [Luke 12:7] and all that happens to us? Isn’t He active now in our lives and on the planet itself? We have not been abandoned here, but accompanied, supported, loved and forgiven. There is so much to be grateful for every day of the year! Thanks be to God!
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I praise God with my gratitude daily? Am I grateful for every single thing that happened to me during my life? Have I let God heal my anger and disappointments? Have I turned everything over to Him to manage, to heal, to transform? How grateful am I for my life and all it contains?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are grateful for all that he has given us. May we seek His help when we can’t be grateful for someone or something in our lives, so that we can live by His commandments to love God with all of who we are and to love our neighbor as ourself.
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 I count 11 times in the Synoptic Gospels.