Thanksgiving

There are three short verses in Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians that are good not only for Thanksgiving Day but for all days.  They are verses 16 to 18 of Chapter 5 and go like this:

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 

In other words, God wants us to always be grateful and to rejoice.  Easier said than done! What about when we are feeling down and things are not going well in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones? Can we give thanks then? Isn’t that naïve or dishonest?

Gratitude, like forgiveness and like love, is not so much a feeling but an act of the will. Yes, it’s easier to be grateful when we are feeling good, but St. Paul says we should give thanks in all circumstances.

This takes faith—faith that, in St. Paul’s words, “all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8: 28).  We can be grateful even in the midst of difficulties by making an act of faith that God is using those difficulties to work some good in the world. After all, God used one of the most horrible things that could ever happen—the crucifixion of Jesus—to bring about the greatest good—our salvation.

The natural human tendency is directed toward negativity. We tend to see the glasses in our lives as half-empty rather than half-full and this gives us dark rather than rose-colored glasses with which we view the world.  One could say that it is the will of God for us, as St. Paul wrote, to be grateful because such an attitude of thanksgiving, no matter how we are feeling, is good for us—for our spiritual, emotional, and physical health.

We don’t develop an “attitude of gratitude” overnight nor is it a matter of “once acquired, always there.”  A grateful heart needs to be exercised.  One way that we can develop a grateful heart is to make thanksgiving a part of our end-of-the-day prayer. 

In the middle of the “Inner Life” call-in spiritual direction radio show yesterday, Ann from Wisconsin sent in an email about how helpful an evening examination that includes thanksgiving has been for her. She started doing this after reading Jesuit Fr. Chris Collins’ book “Three Moments of the Day.” 

She wrote: “I read Fr. Chris Collins' book "3 Momentsof the Day" a few months ago and it's changed my life. During the Examen at the end of the day, I start my prayer with all the things I'm grateful for, that happened during the day. And then I go through the list of things I beg God for, but it's been put into perspective now, because I've just told God what I'm grateful for. And I think I've started to realize what's important... For example: Rather than beg God to improve my high school son's grades and make him work harder, I start by thanking God for my son's health and the fact that he's enjoying swim team. Then the grades don't take on as much importance.”

You can listen to the entire show on the “Inner Life”archives.

Oh, and thank you for reading this and passing it on!