Recognize blessings in your life today

Published 12:05 am Thursday, November 27, 2014

Today, we as a nation observe a national tradition began by our founding fathers of giving thanks for all our blessings. They had come to the New World where, despite their struggles, they felt a deep sense of freedom. They felt that God had blessed them, and they wanted to give thanks.

What are your thoughts and what is your challenge as we celebrate Thanksgiving in 2014. I think the simple part is to gather with family and/or friends to enjoy the time together and the food that is before us. I think the greater challenge is that each one of develops an attitude of  gratitude and becomes a “grateful person.”  I want to offer a few suggestions that may help you grow to be a grateful person.

A great 13th Century philosopher and theologian named Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) described the action/attitude of thanksgiving as having three parts. The first part is recognizing our gifts and blessings; the second part is honoring the giver, and the third part is making a response for being blessed and gifted.

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How can we apply these ideas to ourselves. In the first phase, we might not see ourselves as being blessed or as having gifts. We might, in an unthinkable manner, consider that all we have and all we have accomplished are entirely due to our own creativity and hard work as if we are “self-made” and have no need of God. If we think this way, we will not recognize our blessings, and we will not recognize that “Every good and perfect gift comes from above” (James 1:17).

If we acknowledge that our blessings come from God, the second step will follow – namely that we recognize and honor Him, the giver. Jesus said, “Were not 10 (lepers) healed? Where are the other nine (who did not return to express thanks)” (Luke 17:18). We can thank him with words of thanks, with ritual actions, and with prayer. This second step will only take place if we remember our blessings. This should be easy for us, but that is not always so, either because we take our blessings for granted or we do not take the time, as it were, to “count our blessings.”

The third part of thanksgiving should follow. It we have a sense of being blessed, and if we acknowledge that God is the giver, we must show by our actions and lives that we are grateful. We must live our attitude of gratitude by sharing with others and placing our talents and gifts at the service of God and His people.

As you read my reflections, I suggest you pause for 30 seconds to think about each of the following questions:

4What are the ways that God has blessed and is blessing you in your life?

4How can you honor and thank God, the giver of these?

4What response will you make in your life (in your actions and attitudes) to express your gratitude?

It is my belief there is a strong connection between our faith in God and our becoming a grateful person. Let me offer a few considerations that you might find helpful.

4Think about your image of God and of His role in your life. Are you able to take to heart the words of the Christian Creed describing God as creator and author of life, as redeemer and as sanctifier. If you and I experience God in these ways, we are well on our way to becoming grateful persons.

4The next step is that we are able to admit that we depend on God for everything. This calls for trust on our part and a spirit of humility — seeing all we have and all we are as coming from God and that we totally depend on Him.

4Without the conviction that we depend on God, we will not be able to move beyond abstract faith, but with that conviction we can become a prayerful person and a grateful person.

4If you and I become grateful persons, we will not be able to keep this a secret. We will want to live it and reach out to others. By doing this, we become happy and peace-filled individuals.

It is my hope and prayer that each of us is able to recognize our blessings even in an imperfect world and that we take the time today to honor our God as the giver.


David O’Connor is pastor of St. Mary and Assumption parishes.