A Thanksgiving Reflection on Gratitude and Love

Sisters and novices of Our Lady of Sorrows come from countries around the world and share meals together.

Just as Jesus walked the length and breadth of Galilee, we have walked from season to season, celebrating one Thanksgiving after another, giving thanks. Saying “Thank you” forces us to recognize one another, and when we say the words we are reminded that we need others. Let us live our lives like Jesus, the thankful one, and imitate the saint of gratitude, St. Ignatius of Loyola. This can deepen our appreciation of others and make us more of a “gratitude person” as we age.

Henry David Thoreau said, “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of the earth.”

During all the different seasons, we should be growing in gratitude as we became new and different people. Celebrating Thanksgiving for so many years should change us. Being filled with gratitude this Thanksgiving should bring us great happiness, joy and pride.

We are sometimes like the early pilgrims who arrived on Plymouth Rock. They had one difficulty after another, but once they befriended the Native Americans, many things changed. Their gratitude began to grow and they wanted to celebrate it. The pilgrims and the Native Americans learned to share their gifts with each other and their sense of belonging deepened. God’s gift of gratitude became like lasers which pierced their flesh and mended their differences, making them whole. They were touched to know about one another because it was a genuine recognition of the holy and gave them a sense of unity. Their gratitude poured out as they shared the first Thanksgiving meal together – a teachable moment for us today, some 227 years later.

Deo gratias, is a Latin term meaning, “Thanks be to God!” Think about all the different religions that give thanks to the Divine, be it the Jews or the Christians –  it permeates everything we do. God is the GIVER of all gifts! How do we keep the spirit of gratitude alive within our hearts, for all the immigrants who came to our country and for all their contributions? Be grateful for that, as well as the poor, who we always have with us. Consider helping a family in need this year.

We are living in a world filled with problems, with those who do not accept others who are different, creating barriers. Jesus consistently instructed us in the Gospel to eliminate unhealthy attitudes, and Pope Francis has electrified the whole world by saying, “Everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity.” He reminds us to reach out to the whole world, speaking to us as Jesus did. He says this is what God is inviting us to do, break barriers that separate us from others. This is mercy and love and gratitude in action!

A.J. Cronin said, “Gratitude is something of which none of us can give too much. For on the smiles the thanks we give, our little gestures of appreciation, our neighbors build their philosophy of life.”

This season is a good time for us to develop a sense of gratitude and recognize the love of God in everything He has given us: the turkey on the table, our family gatherings, even a person we don’t know much about like someone from a different culture, or the immigrants who just moved into our neighborhood. Let’s focus on life’s blessings and not all its shortcomings.

Jesuit, Charles M. Shelton said, “Gratitude makes us better people.”

Wrap your minds around that. Your gratitude should touch your spirit as we celebrate one of our greatest American traditions – Thanksgiving. The thankful, joyful person cannot help but be a balanced person who can harvest what they sowed with love. They are even in better health.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “If you cease to have gratitude, you begin to die.”

Let your joy and thankfulness flow out of you as you enjoy your day with family and friends. Have a marvelous season of Thanksgiving and gratitude! •

by Sr. Martinette Rivers, OLS

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