At this time of year, our thoughts turn to raking leaves, apple cider, cozy sweaters, football, and our national holiday, Thanksgiving. In this age of instant gratification, information at our fingertips through social media, and the fast pace of life in general, I encourage you to take the time to slow down and count your blessings.
Each of us has our personal reasons for thankfulness. I am grateful for the gift of life and my parents’ love; family and friends who enrich my life; my vocation to the priesthood and the episcopacy; wonderful people who have accompanied me on the journey of life and faith in Buffalo, Ogdensburg, and Syracuse; blue skies and sunny days; walks in Onondaga Lake Park; and the list goes on and on. How about you? How has God blessed your life?
St. Paul encourages, “For all things give thanks; this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (Thes 5:15). Paul’s words reminded me of a quote from St. Teresa of Avila: “In all created things discern the providence and wisdom of God, and in all things give Him thanks.” These words inspired me to track down other quotes on gratitude by the saints.
• “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.” — St. Gianna Beretta Molla
• “A single, ‘Blessed be God!’ when things go wrong is of more value than a thousand acts of thanksgiving when things are to our liking.” — St. John of Avila
• “Remember the past with gratitude. Live the present with enthusiasm. Look forward to the future with confidence.” — St. John Paul II
• “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” — St. Ambrose
• “O God, grant that whatever good things I have, I may share generously with those who have not, and whatever good things I do not have, I may request humbly from those who do.” — St. Thomas Aquinas
• “Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve You as You deserve.” — St. Ignatius of Loyola
Gratitude is not just for the season of Thanksgiving. It is part of a healthy spiritual life. As I reflected on the words of the saints noted above I was reminded that the providence and wisdom of God is always present and at work in our lives, happiness rests in being attentive to God’s gifts in the present moment, and blessings are meant to be shared with others.
It is so easy to take everything for granted. This happens with God too. We are quick to approach God for something but not as quick to return and give thanks. The Gospel for Thanksgiving emphasizes the failure of the nine cured lepers to return and thank God for their healing. “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner” (Lk 17:17-18)? Are we among the ten percent who express our gratitude for all God’s blessings?
Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” Every time we participate in Mass, we are celebrating the Church’s great hymn of praise and thanksgiving for all God has bestowed upon us. “Whenever we gather for Eucharist, for thanksgiving, what we toast is the whole of our Lord’s life, the defeats along with the victories, the gentle birth alongside the violent crucifixion, the sleepless night in Gethsemane alongside the empty tomb on Easter morning” (Barbara Brown Taylor, Give us This Day, November 22, 2018).
This Thanksgiving may we see our lives in the same way. May we give thanks not only for the gifts that bring us an abundance of joy but also for the sleepless nights, our worries, our frailty, our doubts and fears, and our troubles and challenges. Faith assures us that God is present in all aspects of our lives. For this, we are grateful.
Be assured of a remembrance in my prayers on Thanksgiving. I count you, the faithful of our beloved diocese, among my blessings. Quoting Pope Francis: “Let us ask our Lady to help us recognize that everything is God’s gift, and to be able to say ‘Thank you.’ Then I assure you our joy will be complete. Only those who know how to say ‘Thank you,’ will experience the fullness of joy.”
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.