A Time of Thanksgiving

23 November 2005: Wednesday of the 34th Week of the Year
Daniel 5, 1-28; Luke 21, 12-19: Memorial of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez

At the week that ends the liturgical year, the readings talk about the end of time. That the final hour is like the Fall of the Babylonian empire as the first readings says, or like the Fall of the Temple of Jerusalem as Luke writes in the gospel. The readings affirm that the Lord triumphs in the end, that we should trust the Lord at all times, and that we should always be assured of God’s abiding love.

As we end this liturgical year, it is best to reflect on God’s abiding love, and the depth of our trust in Him. We gather the graces of the past year: grateful for all those who have blessed our lives and thankful for the goodness of God.

We have developed the habit of asking God for personal favors through the Wednesday devotion to our Mother of Perpetual Help. Now, we are asked not to focus on our needs, but to focus on what was given, to focus on the Giver of the gifts. If we ponder deeply all that has been given, we can be overwhelmed by all that is ours.

First, none of the gifts that we have are earned: the way we pursue awards, the way we achieve certain goals. The gifts have been given even before we have asked them. All we have to do is to develop them. God’s gifts are given freely. And this generosity can draw us to look at our own generosity. How generous have we been with others? Do we clutch on our gifts for fear we might lose them?

Second, giving freely means that we give with no strings attached. There are many times that we hear ourselves say: “Di ako papadala ng card, di naman niya ako naalala.” “I will not give her a present this Christmas; she doesn’t show her gratitude anyway.” “I will not take part in the outreach program; nobody takes notice of my efforts.” “What has he done for me to deserve my attention?” There is always a struggle between our self-centeredness and our generosity. Often we let our quiet little greed kill the goodness we have including the virtues of patience and kindness.

Finally, God provides. Anne Frank wrote, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” Generosity encourages us to rely on God and believe that God provides for all His creatures. My mother always reminds me this. She said that our family has survived because of God’s graciousness. As a Jesuit, I have managed to live according to some tenets learned from experience. If something was not used for a year (to give way to seasonal clothing such as sweaters, for example), it belongs to someone else. As I slowly give them away, I notice that somehow it returns. For example, the shirt I gave away was replaced by a t-shirt given by my sister. When one doubts whether to give something away or to keep it, give it away. Often, other people need it more than I do. It is the same with friendships: when one offers it, we find it returned a hundredfold. When we visit someone who is sick and show compassion, often it returns when we are in need, a hundredfold.

This is the time when we have to remember our generous Father. As we thank him, we are assured that He will be gracious to us the following year. I have several suggestions to act on our gratitude:

First, pray St. Ignatius’ prayer with open palms: “Take Lord and receive, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. Whatever I have you have given to me, I restore them all to you, to be governed by Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.” Imagine all your gifts on your open palms and surrender it to God, knowing that they are not yours, but God’s. And therefore, since they are gifts and we don’t own them, the meaningful expression of gratitude is to use and to share them with others.

Second, take time to reflect on people who have blessed you: choose one who might need your care and attention, your appreciation and affirmation. Many of us from the universities believed in the power of our ideas, and thus we have been overly critical of others: we actually have earned a doctorate degree in criticism even before we graduated from high school. This time, we create a culture of affirmation, appreciation and encouragement. Write to someone whom you have been grateful for. Send them an email, or a text message, or a card. A handwritten note often counts. As post-modern culture has it, when it’s handwritten, it's always meaningful and personal.

Finally, give away some material things which you have, perhaps liked, with no strings attached. Or, give away some non-material things (e.g. time and effort at the service of a community) with no strings attached, no terms for service.

We are assured that God provides all our needs, and from the proof of the past, it is reasonable to trust Him in the future. “God has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1, 3).”

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