By Father Anthony J. Pogorelc, professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America
My grandmother always used to say “God is so good, we must always be thankful.” I must admit that as a teen I used to wonder how she could say this. She was widowed, her health was declining and like many mothers she bore a series of worries about her children and grandchildren. Yet it was from her that I learned this important lesson: thankfulness does not come from having things go your way; it comes from believing that what comes to you is given by another. If all is gift, then we can always be thankful.
We live in interesting times. The dreams of the optimistic, that the world could be on a path to continual progress, have been dashed. The sincere and the not so sincere pit values and interests against one another. Failures to communicate abound, constructing new towers of Babel—watch out below. Reinhold Niebuhr’s claim that “original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine” seems more and more appealing. How can we be thankful for this?
Yet in the midst of this world, there are also faithful grandmothers who love and pray for their children. There are children who strive to learn and grow up in the face of terrible odds. There are workers who do their best to provide for the welfare of their families. There are leaders who care about justice and direct their energies toward building a better world. There are entrepreneurs who seek to benefit themselves and others by inventing something new. There are those who try and succeed and those who try and fail. We live in this world with its mixture of good and evil, joy and sorrow. And it is through our engagement with this world that we become the human beings God calls us to become. “God is so good, we must always be thankful.” God calls us to actively participate in His goodness, for the gifts God gives us are unfinished. We must plant the seeds, we must water the garden, and we must collect the harvest. But it is God who gives the growth. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right and just.
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