Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What’s not to like about a day with friends and family gathering to share a hearty, delicious meal and the stories of our lives? I love everything about it – the smells of turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie in the oven; the mellow hues of gold, orange, and brown; and most of all, the sounds of loved ones laughing, talking, praying, and eating together.
I also love the attitude of gratitude. As a nation we take a moment and give thanks for the freedoms and privileges we enjoy. As much as we complain about the difficulties we are experiencing, few of us leave this country. Few see the possibility of a better life elsewhere.
We are so aware of what hurts, what we don’t have, and what we lose. If our salary is cut or we suffer from a back ache, we aren’t quiet about our pain. When our neighbor gets a new car, we can’t help but wonder when we can afford one too. We want more – more clothes, more vacations, and a bigger home.
But how often do we count the blessings we do have? How often do we stop to appreciate where we live, the food in our cabinets, or the people who surround us? If we write down all that does work in our lives, even in the worst of times, the list would be long indeed.
Many of Saint Theodora’s letters were in thanksgiving to other people, people who assisted her or her community’s efforts to spread the Word. She also thanked God for everything, including her trials. She realized God’s mark on all of it and saw every bit of it as a gift. In a letter to one of the sisters (Sister Maria, January 18, 1856) Saint Theodora wrote, “When it is agreeable to your taste, thank God for it; when on the contrary you do not like it, still thank God who gives you an occasion of mortifying yourself. Thus, you will draw profit from everything” (Letters and Journals, 422).
A strained financial situation can promote humility. It also forces us to be mindful of our spending. An illness helps us to be thankful when we return to good health. In our need we are forced to call on others which allows them to be God to us as well as us to be God to them when we assist them. All of these situations are opportunities for grace.
Psalm 107 (1) says, “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good: for his steadfast love endures for ever.” How often do we give thanks and take notice of our greatest gift – God’s love?
After the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she conceived the Messiah, she expressed her gratitude in the beautiful prayer known as the Magnificat. She said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Together, as a family, community, and nation let’s stop and smell the roses. Recognize and appreciate the people who make our lives easier or sweeter with their smiles, guidance, and support. Take a moment to give thanks and glory to God, for the Mighty One has done great things for all of us and Holy is His name.
©Mary K. Doyle