Most of us Americans are still enjoying the leftovers from our traditional Thanksgiving dinners, which, by now, probably have been whittled down to sandwiches and soups. Meals not only sustain the body; they bind us to all those at our table as well as with the millions of people who nourish us in countless ways each moment of our lives.
The natural fruit of such an awareness is gratitude — loads of gratitude. We praise and thank God who is the cause and source of all that is good.
"Thank you" must never be a dried-out mechanical response but rather the expression of an internalized attitude of gratefulness to God and God's people upon whom we are dependent and interdependent. There are seven thousand languages in the world, and God knows them all.
Parents and teachers dutifully instruct children to respond to kindnesses with "thank you." That practice is not only for children. The sensitive traveler, for example, who enters another country knows she or he must learn in advance how to say "thank you" in the local language. It is near-impossible to imagine how there could ever be a day empty of multiple reasons for us each to clearly express gratitude.
It is the Roman Catholic tradition to pray the Mass/Eucharist daily. "Eucharist" is the Greek word that means thank you. Daily we pray the very same Eucharistic prayers, be it an occasion of exalted joy or wrenching agony. We come before God with a disposition of gratitude, not because everything is going our way — for often it is not — but because we are always in God's embrace.
The prophet Isaiah speaks for God, "Behold, on the palm of my hand I have written your name."
Our tears will be turned into laughter, for it is God's kingdom and God's justice that will prevail. For this reason we never tire of praying with faith-filled gratitude.
Gratitude lifts us into a lifestyle of responsibility. We are each uniquely gifted by God, and so each of us has a place in the grand mosaic of life that no one else can fill. We develop our talents so that who we are and what we do in this world give glory to God and transmits God's light more beautifully upon others as it is refracted through us. We are each to enhance the lives of others and never diminish anyone.
The uniquely called Mary, mother of Jesus, proclaimed, "My soul proclaims the greatness of God."
She placed her life in fidelity to God and full service to humankind. God calls each of us into a unique journey that is ours alone, a journey never having been previously traveled by any other person. In the end we will be called to give an accounting of how we have walked that path, how we have been stewards of God's manifold gifts.
Gratitude and responsibility lead us into lives characterized by love and justice. We are at our best when we remember that we possess the glorious distinction of being the beloved daughters and sons of God. We should write that in bold type.
Furthermore, as children of the one God, we are bonded as family, all of us, as sisters and brothers. The power of sin pushes us to break the world up into camps of "us" and "them," based on highly significant but secondary identities of race, religion, nationality, social class, sexual orientation, ideology, and so on.
It is a challenging discipline for us to invite God, rather than the world, to shape our imagination and its consequent judgments. Would not America be wonderfully enlightened and refreshed if we each had the self-discipline to begin our conversations about others, even those who challenge or threaten us, as above all members of our very own family of humankind?
In gratitude we give back with increase the blessings we daily receive. We create nothing. What we cling to dies. What we let go of we possess forever.
Wilbur Davis is the monsignor at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach.