Father Hardon’s Secret to Thanksgiving
One thing Father Hardon excelled at was finding the simplest surprises hiding right in front of us in so many aspects of faith, but particularly in practice of our faith. The best is the way he surprises you with the obvious! Thanks-doing, you say? OK. and then, wham! Father reminds you of the one thing you probably never though of when giving thanks to God! Enjoy this healthy help from Father Hardon – and I think you’ll see why this is the perfect sermon for today!
On Thanksgiving Day, the obvious reflection we should have should be on gratitude. As we know, there is an instinctive gratitude that we have toward human beings. Call it human gratitude. But if human gratitude is instinctive and natural, gratitude towards God is not instinctive or spontaneous. It is built on faith. You’re going into a store and somebody holds the door for us. Thank you. At table, somebody passes the butter or the sugar. Thanks. Spontaneously. But we are not so spontaneous in thanking God. And that is what today’s Thanksgiving Day is all about.
I think we can ask ourselves the three basic questions.
- What is divine gratitude?
- Why should we be grateful to God?
- And the most important question, how?
What is what we call Divine Gratitude?
Gratitude toward God. Gratitude towards God is founded on faith in God, and is the appreciation that we show to God for his goodness to us. When we say that divine gratitude is the appreciation based on faith that we show towards God. Behind it we understand on faith that everything we are, everything we have, everything we hope to be, everything we hope to have, comes uniquely, exclusively, ultimately from God.
Except for him we would not even exist. Except for him we wouldn’t be human beings. Except for him we would not have what we all, dear God, how we hope one day. And the older I get, the more certitude I have in saying this, Lord, how I hope to reach you and to leave this valley of tears.
Our entire past, our present, and as we believe our eternal future, comes entirely from him. Within his divine gratitude is first the recognition. No one is grateful unless the first person that we think of with our minds is God, toward whom we should show our appreciation.
Why Should We be Grateful to God?
Because if we are spontaneously, instinctively grateful to people for whatever they do for us, the smallest favor, there is no one who has been, and we believe will be, more generous to us than the God from whom we came and for whom we were made.
Let’s get a little deeper. We’re asking why. Why should we be grateful to God? Because the heart of gratitude is the realization that someone does not have to, or did not have to, either do or give us what we received. The foundation of gratitude is total, complete freedom on the part of the one toward whom we are grateful. And how this needs to be said in today’s massively confused world.
Why Should We be Grateful?
Because there is not a shred of duty or obligation or necessity on the part of God to give us whatever we have received from his bounty. In other words, why should we be grateful? Because God was in no way obligated or necessitated to do anything for us. Anything, anything. Whatever we are, whatever we possess, whatever we hope in the eternal future to achieve, comes uniquely and exclusively from the generosity of God.
How Should We Express Our Gratitude Toward God?
Over the years, especially on Thanksgiving Day, I have found a formula that I think is useful to describe how we are to show our gratitude toward God. It comes in a sequence of terms. First of all, we are to show our gratitude toward God by what I call thanks-thinking. We must cultivate the habit of thinking of the good things that God has been giving us. We must become conscious of the fact that God has been so good to us.
Every day, this is St. Ignatius, every day, in what for us is a rule of life, the twice daily examination of conscience should begin with an act of gratitude to God. How? Thinking, becoming conscious of how good God has been to me, and therefore I should be grateful to him.
This, I submit, should be a daily practice, a daily habit, and for me by rule a twice daily habit, to first think of what God has given to me during the day, for which I should thank him. But let’s be clear, this thanks-thinking, thanks-thinking every day, should be not only for the things that we like, for the pleasant things, the enjoyment, the satisfaction, the pleasure, all of this needs to be said.
We are to be grateful, and I mean it, grateful for the sorrows, grateful for the trials, how I want to say this with all my heart, grateful for the pains that God has given me. But first I must think grateful thoughts.
Then, if I am to practice this gratitude, I should express myself, in other words, beyond thanks-thinking, there should be thanks-saying. Again, today’s feast day is meant to be an annual reminder that every day, in some way, every day, in some way, I express my gratitude to God. It may be just a grateful pronunciation of the name Jesus.
Beyond thanks-thinking and thanks-saying, there should be thanks-doing. Among the most fundamental motives we have for doing God’s will, should be gratitude. Thanking God by doing the will of God out of gratitude. When we think of all that God has been doing for us, how much should we do in return to him, out of gratitude. But I’m not finished yet.
Beyond thanks-thinking, thanks-saying, thanks-doing, thanks-giving, thanks-giving up. There is no higher gratitude than we can show to God, that not only by doing his will, but out of love for him, surrendering, sacrificing what we like, and asking ourselves every day, I mean it, what can I give up, but of love for God that I like, not because I have to, not because it would be a sin if I did not give it up.
But where there is deep, genuine love, how this needs to be said. The language of love is surrender. The language of love is sacrifice. The language of love is suffering.
If I really love God, I will not only thank him in my mind, or in my words, or in my actions, I will thank him by my grateful endurance of pain. That is the highest language of grateful love.
Lord Jesus, we thank you for all that you’ve done for us, as individuals and as a nation. Keep us daily mindful of all that you are doing for us, but dear Savior especially, let us appreciate the opportunities you give us to surrender our own wills, and gratitude to your will, so that gratefully loving and suffering out of love for you in this life, we may gratefully enjoy your company in that heaven for which we were made, what I call the everlasting Thanksgiving Day. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Thank you.Hardon, John A. S.J. Homily given at Mass for Thanksgiving Day, Nov 22, 1993.
This article, Father Hardon’s Secret to Thanksgiving is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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