Every November, the United States celebrates a great national holiday: Thanksgiving. Canada celebrates a similar feast in October. Although the origins of the U.S. festivity are somewhat historically murky, it’s evident that some of the earliest immigrants to America celebrated this day as an expression of gratitude to God for bringing a healthy harvest which would ensure their colony’s survival through the winter. It was the most primal kind of thankfulness: you have spared our lives, O Lord, and we are grateful.
Over the years, Thanksgiving in the U.S. has become a national expression of gratitude, but sometimes it veers into the neighborhood of cliché, and often it strays away from the source of our gifts. Television hosts will remind us we should be thankful for all the “stuff” we have, including some non-tangible items like freedom, but to whom are we grateful? In some circles, it’s unfashionable to mention that it is God, the source of life and goodness, to whom we owe our deep, humble sense of appreciation.
The faith of the Christian steward, on the other hand, proclaims gratitude to God as its wellspring and cornerstone. The Christian steward is aware of thankfulness to God twelve months of the year, not just in November, and the steward knows, as St. Ignatius of Loyola taught us, that we “find God in all things.” Therefore, we find reason to thank God in all things – for health of mind and body, for our families, our livelihoods, our successes and the gifts of education, intelligence and freedom that make our lives full and rewarding.
We also thank God for the embarrassing moments of our lives, for the disappointments, the sorrows, even the mistakes, because we know that God was present in each of those moments, ready to teach us and to guide us. The Christian steward can go deep in prayer and thank God for lessons learned in times of trouble as well as times of bounty. Gratitude, for the Christian steward, is not just rendered in times of plenty, but in times of sadness and deprivation. The God of all is present in all situations.
Perhaps the challenge for stewards during November is to be a source of reminder to those around them that thanksgiving is a fundamental lifetime habit, rendered to the God of mercy and plenty.
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