By Fr. Erik Esparza
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?”—William A. Ward
The month of November is typically associated with that of gratitude. We begin November in the Church grateful for the lives of saints celebrated on the Solemnity of All Saints, November 1. Reflecting on the lives of all the different saints is both encouraging and inspiring. The saints show us that a life of faithfulness and perseverance especially in the face of difficulties and challenges not only demonstrates the profound faith of believers, but also the power of God at work in the lives of God’s people.
The Solemnity of All Souls, November 2, also provides an opportunity for gratitude as we are invited to recall the lives of those specially known to us, our family and friends, as well as all souls, to offer prayers for all the faithful departed. It is never easy to say farewell to our loved ones, but All Souls Day gives us another opportunity to mourn, remember, celebrate, and pray for the eternal rest of God’s people.
Finally, the main reason for not only us Catholics, but for all Americans, that November is seen as a month for gratitude is the celebration of Thanksgiving. Every fourth Thursday of November, our nation pauses on one specific day not only to remember her history, but to be grateful for all the blessings we have received. In 1864, a presidential proclamation read: “I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe.” God is indeed the source of all blessings and so there is need to express our gratitude with our words and actions.
While it may be tradition to have a certain month and in particular a specific day set apart each year to express gratitude for the blessings received as a nation and as individuals, we must not lose sight of all the blessings from God we experience each day as an individual, family, community, and nation. There is far more good happening each day in our world than there is bad, thus we must take every opportunity to celebrate what is right, holy and good. Do not be discouraged with the disappointments, the struggles and the pains. Being people of gratitude everyday will give us the added strength to persevere and to never give up. So, while we may use this month to be particularly grateful, let us always strive each day to be people of gratitude never forgetting the goodness of our God.
Now go forth and be a joyful witness!
Fr. Erik Esparza is Associate Director of the Office of Priest Personnel in the Diocese of San Bernardino.