With Thanksgiving approaching this month, we would like to take a moment to reflect on the significance of gratitude in the Christian faith. The Bible contains over 150 verses about gratitude, and countless more reflecting a general attitude of praise to the Lord. Why do we give thanks to God, and why is it important?
Christians are Commanded to Give Thanks
We give thanks, first and foremost, because it is God’s will that we do so. God’s Word is replete with exhortations to thanksgiving, both in the Old and New Testaments, and especially in the Psalms:
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6 – Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
his mercy endures forever.
It is God who has created us and sustains us; God has provided for our salvation through His sacrifice, has given us grace, and shown us love. As God’s love for us is unconditional and everlasting, so too should our gratitude be never-ceasing, regardless of our temporal circumstances.
Hebrews 12:28 – Therefore, we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe.
James 1:17 – [A]ll good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
Gratitude: An Appropriate Response
Gratitude is the appropriate response to God our Creator, Lord, and Savior, who, in His goodness, redeems and sustains us. Conversely, ingratitude is at the heart of sin, associated with those who are in rebellion against God, as the Scriptures say:
Romans 1:21 – [F]or although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.
Following Christ’s Example of Thankfulness
By practicing an attitude of thanksgiving in our daily lives, believers follow the model set by Jesus himself, who expressed gratitude to the Father throughout His life and ministry (Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17–19; 1 Corinthians 11:24). It is for this reason that the Eucharist begins with a prayer of Thanksgiving, after the example of Jesus at the Last Supper.
Gratitude is always a powerful weapon. Only if we are able to contemplate and feel genuine gratitude for all those ways we have experienced God’s love, generosity, solidarity and trust, as well as his forgiveness, patience, forbearance and compassion, will we allow the Spirit to grant us the freshness that can renew… our life and mission. Like Peter on the morning of the miraculous draught of fishes, may we let the recognition of all the blessings we have received awaken in us the amazement and gratitude that can enable us to say: ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man’ (Luke 5:8). Only then to hear the Lord repeat his summons: ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be fishers of men’ (Luke 5:10). ‘For his mercy endures forever.’
May the Word of the Lord strengthen your own devotion and inspire you to practice gratitude in your life. As you give thanks to the Lord for His good and perfect gifts, we invite you to join us in worship at the Basilica on Thanksgiving Day.