While I always strive to be grateful for the blessings God has given me, I seem — perhaps not unlike you — to focus on counting them even more this month because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Something about this fine tradition and all it has come to mean — gathering together all the family from near and far, the bounty of the season, memories of holidays past and loved ones now gone, watching the explosion of energy from the young children of the family — evokes in me strong feelings about how truly fortunate I have been and remain, and how much God truly loves me. I pray you can say the same.
In the spirit of the holiday, I wonder if you might join me this month by devoting a portion of your time at prayer to asking yourself some or all of the following questions aimed at getting all of us to think more about gratitude and God’s great generosity:
- Do I truly appreciate the blessings God has given me?
- How do I express to God and to others my gratitude for these gifts?
- What are these blessings? And, "who" are these blessings in my life?
- Do I regularly tell the people most important to me that they are important in my life?
- Do I tend to wish for more "things," or do I savor the blessings I already have now?
- Do I truly use all the gifts God has given me to help those less fortunate than I, not just those lacking in material things but who are troubled in some way, lonely, depressed, in need of my love and support?
- If God were to ask me someday, "What exactly did you do with everything I gave to you?" how would I respond? What do I need to do in the time I have ahead of me to ensure my answer would please God?
I believe these are very important questions for all people of faith.
They are important because all of us are called by God to be good stewards in God’s kingdom; to use the gifts bestowed upon us in service to our Creator, to our sisters and brothers in Christ; and to further God’s loving, compassionate work.
Now, I know that often when we use the word "steward" or talk about "stewardship" in church, some people just assume we are speaking of money. Yet, while all of us are responsible for the proper use of the financial treasure God has given us — including using it with integrity and to help others — material wealth is but just one of the blessings for which we are responsible to God.
There are others. For example, in this era of the "harried," when everything seems to blaze by at lightning speed and many of us are just oversubscribed, time sometimes is more precious than gold.
Who in our lives needs our time right now? What a glorious gift our precious time can be when we are willing to "make time" for someone who could use a little or a lot of it.
What about the things we do well with our hands and our minds? What talents might we share to make our little corner of the world a better place? That "corner" includes our parishes, yes, but what also about our elderly neighbors and relatives; a coworker struggling with a project; a small not-for-profit or service club that can’t afford a bookkeeper, a writer, a plumber, a mason, some legal advice, a tutor; and so on? What about the children who could use a little of our experience and things learned along the way to help them on their journey? Isn’t the experience and wisdom we’ve gained in our lives a gift to share as well?
Yes, the questions above are tough ones, to be sure. But the more we ask them in our lives, then the more we can look for opportunities to change what needs to be changed. By doing so, we can truly honor our debt of gratitude to God. If we are really honest with ourselves, don’t we already know the right answers in our hearts? The hard job is in doing what we know, in doing the right thing for God.
Let’s keep trying. In this time in which we as a nation and as people of faith celebrate this very special holiday, let’s strive to please God and say thanks be to God.
Peace to all, and happy Thanksgiving!