In the sweeping song of praise that Christians call the Magnificat, Mary proclaims for all the world to hear that “God has done great things for me.(Luke 1.49)” As Thanksgiving approaches, I hope that each of us has awareness enough to say the same thing, with the same conviction. It’s true, God has done great things for us. But what? What great things? Listing them is a laudable thing to do, alone or with others on Thanksgiving Day. Here are some ideas to prime the pump:
Surely we thank God for personal gifts: health and energy to meet the day, new ideas, meaningful memories, the blessings of family and friends. We thank God for whatever good people did for us in a year that might have been hard, and if we have had a good year, we thank God for that, too.
But there is more to Thanksgiving than acknowledging what we have received as gift personally and directly, for God’s action and gifts to the world are very much gifts to me as well.
As Mary is aware that God turns people’s expectations upside down, breaks the bonds that enslave them, free them to use their talents to better the life of all, so too do we need to be aware of the breadth of God’s gifts in this fragile world as touching us directly.
Helping hands in the turmoil of Paris last week, blood donated so that another person might live, ethical public servants ready to act, consensus-builders and peace negotiators, all who help us understand this rollercoaster ride called life, people who practice the art of healing are God’s gift to you and me. Forgiveness given, justice insured, compassion offered and violence rejected across the world are God’s gift to you and me. Harvest of crops, harvests of unity and courage are God’s gifts to us.
But giving thanks for worldwide or personal gifts given to us is not enough. Consider focusing our attention instead on the giver of all the gifts we acknowledge. Theologian Karl Rahner,SJ, told an interviewer shortly before he died in 1984: “If God is interesting to me as a stopgap and the guarantor of my needs, then I am not speaking of the true God. The true God is the God who must be worshipped and loved for the sake of God.”
This week is a perfect opportunity to turn to our generous, loving God to say: Thank you for being you. Thank you for loving the world and all its people despite the awful things some of us perpetrate. Thank you for being a God who holds us firmly but lightly and for encouraging us to act on our freedom. Thank you for loving us when we are grumpy and foul-mouthed, insecure or discouraged as well as when we are happy and satisfied with life. Thank you for letting us recognize you in the love of another.
Soon, it will be on to family gatherings, meals, football, card games, long walks and talks together. May we carry into all of these traditional celebrations the whispered prayer: Thank you, God, for being you.
~Sister Joan Sobala