Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving Thanks

THE AMERICAN CIVIC HOLIDAY of Thanksgiving is an anomaly in our national culture: a genuinely spiritual act of thanks for the many gifts we have received.

Of all the kinds of prayer, perhaps the prayer of thanksgiving is the farthest from the secular mind. The spoiled child mentality prevalent today is characterized by constant demands and a sense of entitlement, and this attitude can be found throughout the political spectrum. Spoiled children are never satisfied for very long, either: if they get something good, they want something better, and even more expensive. The brat does not give thanks for what he already has, and so seems incapable of reaching the state of what the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia, or what the Gospel of Matthew calls makarios, or blessedness.

The act of thanksgiving is ultimately a personal, individual act, and cannot be imposed on others. Only if we are thankful for what we have can we gladly share these gifts with the unfortunate.

I can often look at my state in life and throw myself a pity party, where instead I ought to be thankful for all the great, undeserved gifts that I have received. I have much to be thankful for!

And ultimately, we ought to be thankful for everything, even suffering, as the theology of the Cross teaches us.

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