Jesus tells us, “Render to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and to God the things that belong to God.” The first thing we must render to God is gratitude for God’s blessings. Gratitude is the only gift a human can give God, who has everything.
One of the great biblical themes in both the Old and New Testaments is the importance of thanksgiving. God tells Abraham, “You have been blessed to be a blessing.” Jesus puts it a little differently, “The gift you have received, give as a gift.”
Jesus models what it means to have a grateful heart. Before Jesus chooses his apostles, he offers a prayer of thanksgiving to his Father. Before multiplying the loaves and fishes, Jesus gave thanks to God. Before instituting the Holy Eucharist, Jesus offered thanks to God. In fact, the word Eucharist means thanksgiving. The Eucharist is the great act of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and self-giving are expressions of love.
Generous and appreciative actions make love and gratitude real. I like to remind people to show those they love gratitude while they are still here. Don’t wait until after they are gone to show gratitude.
Jesus constantly urges his hearers to use God’s gifts well — be productive; be grateful for their blessings. In Jesus’ parable of the talents, God gives His gifts with certain expectations. Jesus minces no words here. The message is clear: Use your talents or lose them.
God rewarded as worthwhile servants the workers who worked well. The workers who failed to do their job well were punished as useless servants. God also destroyed as useless the vineyard that produced sour grapes.
The Bible separates the “saved” from the “unsaved” according to those who are worthwhile or useless in God’s sight. Jesus teaches that God is displeased with ingratitude.
For example, only one out of 10 lepers thanks Jesus for the gift of healing. And that one was a foreigner, a Samaritan. Jesus blessed the leper who returned to say, “thank you,” but Jesus is saddened that the other nine took God’s healing for granted.
Of all nations in the world, Americans should be the most dedicated to service on behalf of humanity. Failure to share our blessings with those less fortunate could mean losing those blessings ourselves. St. Paul reminds us: Whatever you do, whether in word or work, Give thanks to God through the Lord Jesus. Col. 3:17
Appreciation leads to thanksgiving; narcissistic self-centeredness leads to ingratitude. The grateful heart is the joyful heart even in the midst of personal sufferings.
St. Francis told his brothers: “I wish to compose a new praises of the Lord for his creatures. These creatures minister to our needs every day; without them we could not live.”
G. K. Chesterton says that The Canticle of the Creatures reveals St. Francis’ inner self and the caliber of his soul. Francis is especially conscious of the fact that everything comes from God and that creatures reflect the goodness of their Creator.
St. Francis of Assisi recognizes that we are incapable of being reconcilers and peacemakers unless we assume the attitudes of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus reveals the mysterious ways of God.
In all religions, giving thanks for blessings and benefits forms an essential part of prayer. The care of the soul demands we give thanks for God’s blessings, and show gratitude, especially people who have touched our lives.
Canticle of the Creatures
By Francis of Assisi
Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no one is worthy to mention Your Name.
Praised by You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
and bears a likeness to You, Most High One.
Praised by You, my Lord, through sister Moon and the starts,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather.
through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praise by You, my Lord, through sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised by You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.
— Fr. Stephen, who lives at St. Francis Friary in Providence, R.I., writes frequently for religious and secular publications.