by Deacon Stephen Bowling
Well, it’s November and you know what that means . . . more pumpkin spice stuff than you can shake a stick at (yuck) and enough articles about the “virtue of thankfulness” to fill the Grand Canyon.
Just because we celebrate a great holiday about gratitude on the fourth Thursday of November every year, does NOT necessarily mean that gratitude itself is inherently virtuous. In fact, Jesus reminds us very clearly that this is NOT the case in one of my favorite parables.
Do you remember the parable from Luke 18: 9-14 about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector? The one where the Pharisee takes up his place in the front of the synagogue and loudly gives thanks to God that “he is not like other people”? This fellow had the “thankfulness” bit down to a polished stage act, but his “prayer” was in no way pleasing to God, so Christ reminds us.
Humility, one might say, is the essential gravy necessary to go with the meat of gratitude . . . without it gratitude is made nearly as “inedible” as last year’s leftover turkey. (Yes, November is also the month for the proliferation of turkey references.)
Thankfulness is good to have, certainly, but like so many things, it must be carefully considered and focused through the lens of Christ’s teachings. Are we oriented towards the good of others in our gratitude? Is the support of the weak and the powerless prominent in our thoughts, prayers and actions? Do we “feel for” the needs of our brothers and sisters before we desire material things?
At this time of year when we remember all the many gifts we’ve been given and how we should be thankful for them, let us remember that gratitude by itself is simply not enough. Gratitude should be for us a key motivating factor so as to further share our many gifts among our fellow travelers along life’s journey. I promise you, Jesus does indeed want us to be our “brother’s keeper” . . . and as such, a great vista of opportunity to do so stretches out before us.
Especially in November . . .