This week as we anticipate and celebrate Thanksgiving, we reflect upon the many blessings bestowed upon us with hearts full of gratitude and joy.
By: Rev. Paul Scalia
It is one of the first things that parents teach their children — to give thanks. They encourage them to say Thank you and make sure they write illegible little thank you cards after Christmas or a birthday. We seem never to forget this childhood lesson. Our words and cards become perhaps more perfunctory, but they still salute the basic duty to give thanks. And even when we fail to give thanks (which is more often than not), we still acknowledge its importance.
In relation to God thanksgiving is even more fundamental, the first duty of the creature to the Creator. Saint Thomas Aquinas locates the prayer of thanksgiving within his treatise on justice. We have an obligation to give thanks. The Mass also calls this to mind. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, says the priest. It is right and just, the people respond. Not just a good idea or a nice thing every now and then, but a matter of justice and of conduct worthy of God.
Perhaps because it is such a basic duty, we lose sight of not only the importance but the power of giving thanks. Repeated acts of thanksgiving give the mind the proper perspective on things. They shape the soul, perfecting it more and forming it in right relationship with God. We run the risk of reducing thanksgiving to just good etiquette and manners, to duty and justice. In reality, giving thanks to God — not just once a year, but repeatedly and often — perfects us as His children. It maintains the proper relationship with Him. He is God and we are not. By voicing our indebtedness we learn more and more just how poor in spirit we are, that without Him we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15:5).
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