On Veteran's Day, Mr. Edward Olivares-- a veteran of World War II-- spoke at the morning assembly at my school. He talked to the students about being a radio operator during the fighting in France. His incredibly dangerous job was to climb to the highest building in the city, watch enemy troop movements, and then direct the army's air strikes to their targets via his radio.
Mr. Olivares acknowledged that many of his friends in the U.S. Army never made it back home from the war. He told the students and parents assembled, "So I tried my best . . . the good Lord helped me, and here I am today." After his talk, Mr. Olivares told me that he didn't know why God cared so much for him, but that it was "overwhelming" to think of, and he remains grateful to this day. He wasn't thankful to some far-away God who sat on a throne in the clouds. Mr. Olivares was thankful to a close friend whose love for him was beyond his own understanding. I couldn't help but be deeply moved by the simple and powerful reality of this man's gratitude to God.
During the holidays, it's common to recall the blessings for which we are thankful. This year, however, perhaps we could consider a shift in the common "I'm thankful for" script? Instead of running off a list of things that has become rote, let's all take the chance to move to a deeper level with God. First, think about Mr. Olivares's deeply personal gratitude to God-- a God he believes has been intimately close to him, particularly during the most difficult time of his life as a soldier in World War II.
Then, maybe recall the ways God has been intimately close to you during the trials of your life. Offer thanks to Him-- not by listing material items, but by talking to Him personally, as if He were seated next to you. If you feel distant from God, invite Him into your heart and mind. Make plans to draw close to Him during the seasons of Advent and Christmas through daily conversation with Him. Finally, share your reasons for being thankful with your children. Remind them of the true source of those blessings. Your example will move your children to a deeper level of trust and faith.
For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator. (Catechism of the Catholic Church,#27)
Feel free to share those things for which you are thankful by leaving a comment below. Have a blessed and peaceful Advent!