November 21, 2014


November is gratitude month

The month of November begins with a celebration of saints and sinners (All Saints and All Souls), and concludes with the uniquely American feast of Thanksgiving, a “harvest festival” that recalls God’s abundant goodness to us.

November is a time to be especially grateful for the people (living and dead) who have gone before us, and for the goodness and beauty of the Earth that feeds, clothes and shelters us as we journey to our heavenly home.

Gratitude is an emotion that is truly liberating. Have you ever met a genuinely grateful person who was bitter, mean or resentful? It’s impossible to be truly thankful for what we have while being consumed with anger for what we don’t have.

Jealousy of others’ gifts can’t be sustained when we’re focused, gratefully, on all the gifts God has given to us. Misery results from an obsessive bitterness that is exclusively focused on self.

Joy is the spontaneous result of thankfulness, an attitude that turns our attention away from our own wants and needs to what others have generously given us, or done for us, out of love, friendship or simple fairness.

Everyone should have a gratitude list that starts with God, who has given us every good gift we possess, and goes on to include the people and communities who have enriched our lives. Parents and family should be high on our gratitude list, even if things at home weren’t (or still aren’t) perfect. Friends are a great blessing, and many of us are privileged to have co-workers who make tough jobs easier. All these should be on our list.

Life itself is a tremendous gift that we should be thankful for. Respect for all life, especially the sacredness of every human life, begins with a profound “thank you” to God, the author of all life.

When we forget to thank God for this most precious gift, when we act like we ourselves are somehow responsible for decisions concerning life and death, terrible things happen. Saying thank you for the great gift of life is the first (and perhaps most important) step on the road to peace—in our hearts, in our families and neighborhoods, and in our world.

Good health should be on everyone’s gratitude list even when we, or those we love, are suffering from a serious physical or emotional illness. The miracle of healing should always be a source of thankfulness, especially for those of us who have witnessed firsthand what can happen when the skill of health care professionals is complemented by the power of prayer.

Freedom should also be high on our list. As daily news reports remind us, if we take our liberty for granted, we risk losing it. Gratitude to the men and women who defend us and keep us safe—here at home and throughout the world—should be something we express often and from the heart.

Love demands our gratitude, and so does friendship. Think of how lonely this world would be without the power of love freely given to us from the moment of our conception to the hour of our death.

Every one of us is loved by God in the most intimate and personal way. God knows our name. He reaches out to us and cares for us as only a loving father can.

Scripture says that God is love, so when we thank others—spouse, family, friends and even strangers—for the gift of love, we are expressing gratitude for God’s gift of self to us. This loving and selfless gift was most perfectly realized in Jesus who became human and died for our sake. He is the source of all our hope, the joy of all desiring. Giving thanks to him—and for him—is the secret to true and lasting joy.

November is gratitude month. It is a time when we are invited to reflect gratefully on all the gifts we have received from a good and gracious God.

Gratitude is the first characteristic of a Christian steward, but it never stands alone. The grateful steward is accountable for all his or her gifts, and generous, too. Finally, a steward who is truly grateful seeks to return God’s gifts with increase, to be productive and “give back” a hundredfold.

Thanksgiving for the abundant harvest—for all the gifts we have received—acknowledges that the blessings we have received are not to be hoarded or buried, but to be grown, matured and then shared generously with others.

The Earth and all it contains belong to everyone. Grateful stewards are green, not with envy but with loving care for the environment that is God’s gift to us.

This November, let’s offer heartfelt thanks to God for all his gifts.

—Daniel Conway

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