Some years ago, the popular spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, took a leave from his position at Yale Divinity School and went to Peru for a year. Nouwen worked and lived among the poor in the outskirts of Lima. Upon his return, he wrote a best selling book entitled, GRACIAS. He titled the book “Thank You” because he found the sentiment of gratitude so prevalent among the poor that he was both astonished
and edified. Fr. Nouwen witnessed the poverty and sufferings of the Peruvian people while at the same time seeing their sense of gratitude for everything.
The word “gracias” permeated not only their life style but also their view of life and God. Often the “gracias” was spoken as “Gracias a Dios”. The simplest act was completed with a prayer of thanks to God. Fr. Nouwen laid bare the irony that those who have little are often very grateful, while those who have much more, are often less grateful. Naturally one would think the reverse would be true. In fact, the irony is often carried even to the extremes: sometimes those who have abundance want more and feel entitled to more, and those with very little
This week, we North Americans celebrate one of the most cherished of our national holidays, Thanksgiving. Surely, we are a blessed people. And it has been my experience that most Americans embrace this holiday with a deeply sincere sense of gratitude. Our gratitude is felt at many levels: to family, loved ones, our nation and most importantly, to God. All of us agree that the day is very important. Like you, I recall memories of childhood celebrations that I cherish – memories of families coming together and, at a table laden with abundance, pausing in a formal and beautiful way to thank God for all blessings.
Our reality is that the day comes and goes and the busyness of life can so distract us that our sense of gratitude can become dulled. We can fall into the trap of forgetting and not acknowledging God’s blessings in our life. The worries and challenges can draw us away from the truth that we are first and foremost God’s most precious children and blessed beyond measure. When I re-capture this truth, suddenly everything is reordered. I see things in a new light, priorities are re-established and my sense of the rightness of seeing God as the giver of so much is both freeing and humbling.
This Thursday we will gather with our loved ones. Even in the midst of the worries and challenges of these times, we know we have so much for which to be grateful. Unlike last year when Covid restricted us in so many ways, I will spend this beautiful day with family on the south shore. This year, in the light of the pandemic and the enormous human suffering worldwide, we will bring to the dinner table our gratitude for all we have and urgent prayers for harmony and hope in this divided and struggling world.
Thanksgiving Day Prayer
Creator of the Universe,
Giver of every good gift, we pause
on this Thanksgiving Day to express our gratitude for Your constant love and care for us, and for
Your continued graces and blessings.
We thank you for the countless ways in which you nurture our lives,
guiding us, comforting us, challenging us, strengthening us, as we walk our
path of life on earth and seek to deepen our faith in You.
We thank You for the gift of Your Son, Jesus, for His teachings and
example who, with the many people You place in our lives, show us how to be
Your faithful disciples.
We thank you for the gift of our family, friends and faith community,
those in heaven and those on earth, and for the many ways they fill our hearts.
Today and every day, Loving God, may we, with every heartbeat and in every
circumstance, cultivate a spirit of gratitude to You. And may we ever be Your
trustworthy stewards on earth. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord.