Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ
Ateneo High School’s Thanksgiving Mass
18 February 2014
The point of the mass today is to bless the Lord, by giving thanks. Let me first tell you a story:
One afternoon a college student felt the need for a coffee break, so she went to Starbucks Katipunan. She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her bag. She then got in line for coffee, found a place to sit at one of the crowded long tables facing the glass window, and then taking the lid off her coffee and bringing out a magazine she began to sip her coffee. Beside her a man sat reading a newspaper.
After a minute or two she reached out and took a cookie. As she did, the man beside her reached out and took one too. This put her off, but she did not say anything.
A few moments later she took another cookie. Once again the man did so too. Now she was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything.
After having a couple of sips of coffee she once again took another cookie. So did the man. She was really upset by this - especially since now only one cookie was left. Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was left.
Before she could say anything he took it, broke it in half, offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the other half himself. Then he smiled at her and, putting the paper under his arm, rose and walked off.
Was she steamed! She was so angry! Her coffee break ruined, already thinking ahead of how she would tell this offense to her family, she folded her magazine, opened her bag, and there discovered her own unopened bag of cookies!
I like this story because it reminds us how well God has treated us, even if we have not treated Him well, or even if we harbor bad feelings towards Him especially when we blame Him for all the disappointments, frustrations and the problems we are undergoing, whether in the family or in school. The story also makes me think how we can be so unappreciative of him, or act as if all that we have comes from ourselves.
A passage from Deuteronomy (8:7-18) tells us about what Moses wanted to remind the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land:
Do not say to yourself, "MY power and the might of MY own hand have gotten ME this wealth!" But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, so that He may confirm his covenant that He swore to your ancestors, and as He is swearing to you today."
I believe this is the reason why we have a school-wide mass in thanksgiving to the Lord today. I remembered what Mr. Gabby Mallillin, our principal, said to me last school year as we prepare to calendar our school-wide masses. This is the change: Our mass for our social institutions was moved earlier to January, and February, our last school wide mass is now dedicated in thanksgiving. As the Gospel tells us today, this mass is in the spirit of the sole leper who returned to Jesus to give thanks.
Why this mass? Because we are acknowledging the Giver, the one who gifted us with what we already have, what we are having, and what we will have in the future. It is a tendency for many of us to think what Moses feared the Israelites would think: that whatever achievements, successes, and insights we acquired this year has been from OUR OWN HANDS! No, it is not from ourselves! We would like to avoid being like the 9 other lepers who were healed, but never returned to the Lord to give thanks!
How do you know that you are turning into the nine unappreciative lepers? When you think you are sufficient enough; when you think you are far better than the rest of the batch; when you think that you do not need to consult others because you are greater. But look again, you do not win all contests, you do not have all the class banners, you do not have all the talents others have, when you think the bag of cookies you have comes you.
St. Ignatius said that the deadliest sin, he said, is ingratitude. It is “the cause, beginning, and origin of all evils and sins.” The idea that we sin because we’re not sufficiently aware of God’s goodness, in ourselves and in others, probably wouldn’t occur to too many people.
If I were to ask you now: “If you could be granted one wish that will come true right now – what would that be?”
I asked this question once to a group of high school students. One of them said, “I have been envious of others, but I wish the Lord will grant me the ability to appreciate all that I have right now!” When we thank the Lord for what He was given us – in fact all of what we have, including being here in Ateneo HS – we sanctify or make holy everything we have. Just like the gift you have given to your crush or to your girlfriend on Valentines Day, you want them to remember you when they see your gift. And thus, loving you MORE! Love becomes better when we remember our beloved often, all the time! The same thing with God: when we see our gifts, we are invited to remember God who gave it to us!
David Yuhico composed our communion song today. The chorus says: “You are the one, who showed my way, who cast the shadows away, You took my hand and light flooded in; when I’m with you, I find my way.” This to me is what gratitude is: We thank the Lord for showing us the way, who casts all the shadows away, so that we may find OUR way!” (Thank you David!)
What would happen if all of us here today become more appreciative and thankful? It is beautiful to watch the faces of people when we acknowledge them. They radiate; they light up! Suddenly, we feel 100% better about them, about ourselves, and the world becomes a better place!
So let us say 'thank you' to our classmates, our teachers and parents. Greet the person next to you!
And so if you find yourself with a bag of cookies, even if the bag of cookies is truly yours, an Atenean is trained to share it: not just because of the possibility that it belongs to the person next to you, but even if you bought it, it is God’s gift – yes it is yours, and also NOT yours.