January 12, 2006

The True Spirit of Thanksgiving

By Michelle Bauman *

“In Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

Looking back on the holiday season, I think of good-natured people volunteering their time to hand out food at a homeless shelter, donating money to charities for the poor, and spending an afternoon singing Christmas carols at a retirement home.  As the holiday season comes to a close, I look back and realize just what a special time of year it is.  For a few short weeks, people are patient and kind toward each other, thankful for their blessings, and generous with their time and money.  But the kindness, generosity, and gratitude that pervade the season seem to disappear as quickly as the holly and candy canes.  As soon as the holidays are over, most people return their normal lifestyle – taking their blessings for granted and complaining when things don’t go their way.  Why is it that people count their blessings so frequently during the holiday season, and so rarely during the rest of the year?

How often do we remember to thank God for everything we have been given?  Much of the time, we tend to take what we have for granted, and to think that we are responsible for our successes in life.  We think that we deserve what we have through our ingenuity, skill, hard work, and dedication.  We often forget that it is God who gave us the skills that we are utilizing, and while we are doing our part by wisely using those talents, it is really God who deserves the credit. 

In our pride, we often forget how utterly reliant we are on God’s mercy and grace.  If God forgot about us for one mere second, humanity would cease to exist.  Only through the eyes of humility can we can see our proper place in this world: we are creatures, created by God, and totally dependent on Him.  As St. Paul tells us, “…It is He who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:25)   In all of our achievements dwells not our own glory, but the glory of God, without whom it would be impossible for us to accomplish anything.  God is the one ultimately responsible for all of our successes.  It is He who gives us our talents and guides us in the proper use of them.  It is He who oversees everything we do, from its beginning to its fulfillment. 

As we acknowledge this truth, we can go into the New Year with a sense of profound hope and strength.  Realizing that we are weak and powerless without God lifts a great burden from us and provides us with a deep sense of freedom.  With humility, we can allow God to be in control of our lives, trusting in His all-knowing power and wisdom to guide us.  We no longer need to worry about the petty things in life; rather, we can join with St. Paul in confidently asserting, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)  If we truly believe this, we can make the holiday spirit of thanksgiving last all year long.

Michelle Bauman is a senior at the University of Dallas, where she is studying politics and journalism.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.

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