Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Thanksgiving is a time when families, large or small, will gather around a table to share a meal, maybe watch some sports, and spend time together. But beyond the gifts they are about to receive, this particular holiday provides an important opportunity to contemplate what being thankful really means.
Being thankful is the willingness to show appreciation for some words or deeds, and that authentic gratitude is a virtue — one we must strive to incorporate into our daily life.
Fundamental to a healthy society is the ability of its people to co-exist in a respectful and loving manner. It sounds obvious, but it is so much more complex. Respect for others is so easily dismissed nowadays. As children, our parents taught us common courtesy by reminding us to say please and thank you. It was also expected of us that we were to be grateful to God for so many of His good gifts. As adults, it is usually an automatic response, one would hope, but the true meaning of giving thanks seems to have fallen by the wayside. Often, saying the word thanks is more of a reflex and not a true reflection on the interaction that has taken place.
Being able to express sincere thanks to another person for something is a meaningful and necessary act. It is also a sign of healthy humility. We can never forget that at the Last Supper, Jesus took the bread and wine and gave it to his disciples, but only after giving thanks.
The word grace is from the Latin “gratias” meaning thanks, and Jews consider food blessed only after they have thanked God for it.
As disciples of Christ, we have been given that example of expressing appropriate gratitude despite the circumstances that surround us or that we will face. This is made most apparent during the celebration of Mass. The name for the primary act of worship in our Church, the Eucharist, comes from a Greek word meaning thanksgiving.
So, do we really show thanks for all that we have been given in this life, for each new day, or all the good that has been bestowed upon us — even in the midst of hard times? Do we daily give thanks to our Savior for all that was sacrificed to give us this life and the next? The Gospel calls us to give of ourselves and to do so without seeking thanks, but with appreciativeness. The reward will be in the next life.
Even in the darkest of times, we need to always feel a sense of gratitude. Our daily existence should be enveloped in a prayer of thanksgiving. It’s important to take a break from the distance created by technology to focus thanks for what is in front of us — our family and friends, and above all, our God.
Go ahead and be thankful for the food that nurtures the physical needs now, but be grateful in thought and deed about the sacrifices and many gifts the Lord has made so that we in turn may build his kingdom.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God!
Most Rev. Robert E. Guglielmone
Bishop of Charleston