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March 11March 11
November is often called “gratitude month.” We Catholics begin this month by remembering with grateful hearts all those who have gone before us—both the saints (known and unknown) and the “poor souls,” who require the assistance of our prayers before they can enter their heavenly homeland.
During November, we also celebrate Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday that challenges us to be grateful for God’s blessings on our country. And, as November passes, we begin preparing for the coming again of our Lord at Christmas—a time of immense gratitude and joy.
Gratitude is an essential component of Christian spirituality. It calls our attention to the goodness of God, and it reminds us that our most appropriate response to God’s love is eucharistia, the Greek word for “giving thanks.” As Christians, our most significant act of divine worship is the holy Eucharist, where we give thanks to the Father for the precious gift of his only Son and the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Generous people are often the first to say “thank you.” Frequently, they give out of gratitude, out of a genuine sense of appreciation for all the ways that they themselves have been blessed. As strange as it sounds to ask this question, could it be that God feels the same way?
If God is the supreme giver, the being who is filled to overflowing with love and goodness and the one who creates and sustains life out of an abundance of creative power, might it not be that the heart of God is so filled with gratitude that the outpouring of grace (pure goodness freely given) is his way of giving thanks?
This is not the way we normally think of things. God gives. We receive, and we ought to say thank you. Certainly, there is no “ought” in God’s case. He doesn’t have to say thank you to us (the way we owe God a debt of gratitude).
But isn’t it possible, or even likely, that God says thank you to us because he loves us and respects us—and because he knows how hard it is for us to do the right things (even with the help of his grace)?
What might God be grateful for? Certainly, we can say that God is grateful for the pure and unconditional love that exists among the three members of the Blessed Trinity. And if this is true, perhaps we can say—in some analogous sense—that God gives thanks for the love that is returned to him by the angels and saints and by all of us who manage in our limited ways to worship God with grateful hearts and to serve him in our daily lives.
We know that God is infinitely generous, and that leads us to suppose that he is also infinitely grateful. Why? Because even the most basic reflection on Christian stewardship reveals that gratitude and generosity are inseparable. Generous people express their gratitude by sharing everything they have with others. This is exactly what God does when he exercises his creative love and goodness. By giving us the gift of life, God expresses the gratitude that is inseparable from his generosity.
Responsible Christian stewardship flows from a keen awareness that all we have and all we are comes to us from a generous and loving Father. But God isn’t a steward, is he? He’s the Creator and, therefore, the owner of all things. God owns everything. We human beings are called to be God’s faithful stewards.
True enough, but God became a man—like us—in all things but sin. That means that Jesus Christ became a steward. He became a human person who was grateful, responsible, generous and willing to give back to his Father with increase. God’s only Son became human to show us how to live—to free us from our ingratitude, our irresponsibility, our selfishness and our abuse of God’s generosity. To live as Jesus did, we have to cast off self-centeredness and learn to give thanks generously and joyfully.
Gratitude is God’s gift to us. Saying thank you keeps us from being what Pope Francis calls “sourpusses”—ungrateful people who are bitter, stingy or vindictive.
Saying “thank you” is our way of sharing in the life of the Holy Trinity. It is the way of holiness lived by Mary and all the saints who gratefully and generously followed in the footsteps of Jesus. Let’s give thanks to God for all his goodness to us.