Thursday, November 24, 2016

Why Thanksgiving is so Important

In the Catholic Church, such a premium is placed on thanksgiving that we refer to Mass as Eucharist.  Eucharist comes from Greek word for thanksgiving.  This is no surprise.  One of the two types of sacrifice in the Old Testament is the thanksgiving sacrifice.  This sacrifice was the tithe of the first fruits of one's labor, an act that showed an understanding of the already present existence of God's blessings and grace in one's life.  The other type of sacrifice was the sin/peace offering done out of sorrow for one's sins and to seal covenants between God and man.  In Mass, both sacrifices are in play:  the final sin/peace offering of the Cross is mixed with the thanksgiving offering as an act of perfect praise and worship.

Today, though, I focus on the thanksgiving element.  In our country, we designate a Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving.  To whom?  Being thankful implies an object being thanked.  The answer is that we are thanking God.  In the Church though, save Good Friday and Holy Saturday, we thank God every day through the Eucharist.  So important is the concept of thanksgiving, that is in an ongoing act till Christ comes again.

Why is thanksgiving so important?  It helps us keep focus. It helps us to recognize God's blessings already present.  It staves off the demonic forces of entitlement.  It helps us keep our eyes fixed on the prize.

It helps us keep focus in that it immerses us in truth.  Thanksgiving to God on a daily basis makes us focus on what blessings we have and promotes us to use those blessings well.   It opens us to not seeing ourselves as being owed, but as receptors of God's goodness.  It also helps us to see the good in others.  It helps us look for the everyday kindness that is there but blurred by the drama life brings.

With this we see God's blessings already present and have good hope that such blessings will continue.  We see concretely that our faith, hope, and charity are well placed in God.  It helps us endure when things do not go well; it keeps us from feeling abandoned when ill fortune comes our ways.  It gives us the noble faith of Job to endure all with peace.

Of great consequence, it staves off the demonic force of entitlement.  This sense of being owed is the most vitriolic cancer of our age.  It stems from a false idea that I am the master of my own happiness and that such happiness is an absolute.  It allows for all crime, all sin, and all of the temper tantrums that so riddle our society.  The thankless person rages and is never satiated.  They are miserable creatures who spread their misery far and wide. Their lack of thanksgiving and appreciation becomes a black hole that crushes all light and joy.  Petulant anger and permanent furrowed brows are the calling card of the thankless.  What a miserable and wholly unnecessary way of life.

God wants better for us than such darkness.  He sent His Son to bring us into the light.  His Son gave His life to open the doors to heaven.  He wants our joy.  However, we cannot experience that joy with hearts so thankless.  A thankless heart is a throne for sin.

On this thanksgiving day, resolve to yourself to cultivate thanksgiving.   Find  reasons to be thankful.  Make it a part of your daily prayer life.  Be generous with the words 'thank you!' When you go to Mass, spend time in prayers of thanksgiving before Mass.  I can promise you this:  the more you cultivate thanksgiving, the happier you will be, the more patient you will be, the more calm you will be, and the closer to God you will be.