Sometimes I think we should rename Thanksgiving Day to “Lord grant me grace to accept my blessings” Day. Too often we fail to realize all that we do have or we assume we had something to do with it and cut grace out of the picture. Sometimes we look with suspicion on the opportunities presented to us and rather than seeing the wrong turn we made as a chance for something new, we just see it as a way to get lost.
Sometime ago I saw a headline that read: “Scientists say Universe should not exist”. True enough. It’s outside the realm of scientific inquiry to answer “why” the universe exists or to put it another way, they can’t really tell us why there is something rather than nothing. Our under-standing of the world and ourselves is too often constrained by an insistence that only science can give us knowledge. By doing so we cut off knowledge from other sources, such as theology or philosophy and the world becomes meaningless and life is at best the instinctual will to survive.
But the fact that the universe should not exist yet it does, is reason enough for gratitude. The fact that there is something rather than nothing is probably a blessing most people overlook.
A few weeks ago, our Sunday Gospel reading was the Parable of the Tenants. They had leased out a vineyard and at the harvest refused to pay the owner his share of the bounty. They eventually killed the owner’s messengers and even his son. What they failed to recognize first was that the vineyard they leased had been built by others. After all they didn't inherit a barren waste land but rather a well cultivated farm. So, in their arrogance they considered the vineyard theirs and theirs alone rather than caretakers of a world someone else had built.
The world we occupy and even the country we live in have been built by others, first by God always. So, we build on other’s success. How well or not do we respect what we have inherited? The Parable reminds us that we are tenants, not the owner. Therefore, we should consider ourselves blest to have such a vineyard to work in and cultivate. If not, then as the Parable concludes, the owner will return and settle accounts and it won’t be good.
So, measuring from Thanksgiving a year ago, how have you cultivated the vineyard? How well have you built on what others have passed on? How much do you respect and express thankfulness for all that came before to make our world what it is? How willing are you to build on and even improve the world you have inherited so that those who come after you will likewise benefit from the world you helped shape?
Here is a simple exercise to help increase your awareness and gratitude. Consider any ordinary object that you use and consider what went into getting that to you for your benefit. Since it’s Thanksgiving consider the Turkey. For there to be a turkey, there had to be a place where a turkey could live, with the correct environment, air, water, food. Of course, all the elements of the environment have to be governed by precise laws to work in harmony to sustain the life of the turkey. At some point, someone had to figure out that the turkey might be good to eat. Today you consume a turkey that you probably did not have to hunt for in the wild, did not have to dispatch, pluck the feathers and clean the guts. In fact, today you can even obtain a Turkey that has already been seasoned and cooked. But if you did cook the turkey, you had to use an oven with gas or electric that is supplied to your home. You didn't have to build a fire, or an oven, or drill for the gas or run the lines for the electric. And on it goes. A lot of effort, knowledge and ingenuity of someone else went into getting your turkey to the table. You can take it a step further and consider who established the conditions in the first place, who gave human beings the ability to reason and so discover first principles from which to build upon? Who put first principles in the universe? Who created the universe?
In light of that our Thanksgiving Gratitude List should be long, very long.
Gracias, grazie, merci, xie xie, danke, terima kasih, arigato, salamat po, dziekujue, obrigado, tack, cam on ong, diakuju, malu aupito, fa’afetai, mahalo, mesi, dank u, gratias tibi ago! In any language—thank you to all those who built our Parish community and all those who sustain it.
Fr. John B.BACK TO LIST