| By Sister Ann Shields

How Can You Really Give Thanks at Thanksgiving?

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. (Psalm 30:13)

We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks; we call on your name and recount your wondrous deeds. (Psalm 75:2)

Are the thoughts reflected in these psalms common, rare or nonexistent in your everyday life? For example, do you express thoughts like these throughout your day whether at work or home?

  • Thank you, God, for your kindness to me today.
  • Thank you for wisdom and insight.
  • May you be praised, O God, for forgiving my sins.
  • May you be praised and thanked, O God, for the blessings that have come to me today.

I want to encourage you to take some time this month to evaluate your thoughts and your speech. Our minds do not like a vacuum; if we are not thinking constructive or grateful thoughts, our minds (and hearts) will be filled most often with petitions and complaints, anxiety or anger, gossip and lies.

In regard to our petitions, of course, God wants us to bring our needs to him – every day – but if that is all we do, we have only completed the first part of our prayer. Do you remember the passage in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 17 where 10 lepers ask Jesus to heal them and he does. However, only one returns to give him thanks. The rest go on their way rejoicing, ignoring (forgetting) the need to always render thanks to those who have done us a good service. They ignored the one who had restored them. How often we do that. We pray for a good thing and, when we receive it, forget to render thanks to the source of all our good and to those who have helped us. As Christians, we need to handle this area of life better than we usually do – in relation to God and to others.

We have so much today; we take so much for granted. The more we have, it seems, the more we lose a sense of gratitude and actually develop an attitude of entitlement. It seems sometimes that gratitude has not only been dropped from our speech, but even more from our way of thinking. Too many of us have come to a point where we think of ourselves as the source of our good – our talents, our money, our intelligence. That can be a fatal error and can lead to great misery.

God is the source of all the good we have in life. We need to restore this understanding to our way of thinking – and acting.

God has given us life. He has made possible the sacraments to gift and free and heal, to equip us to live our vocation as disciples of Christ. He has made possible the true hope of eternal life. He forgives our sins – always.

All of us have had struggles in life; yet we know that he hears all our prayers and answers them according to what will most lead us (and those we love) to heaven. Why do we so frequently fail to return to him with thanksgiving in our hearts? Has God been moved out of first place in our lives? Who is in first place? Are we guilty of idolatry?

Let us consider making a personal commitment to make thanksgiving prayers a daily part of our morning or evening prayer

“He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me; to him who orders his way aright, I will show the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:23)

Dinnertime tips for a thankful Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a marvelous way to keep all things in balance with truth as our foundation. Consider using some time around the Thanksgiving meal or in another part of the day to ask each person to name something for which they are particularly grateful this year and then have the host bring all that gratitude into a Thanksgiving prayer on behalf of the whole family. Such a tradition can help your children, grandchildren and one another to be a family marked by gratitude to God and to others.

Sister Ann Shields is a renowned author and a member of the Servants of God’s Love.