16 Nov Thanksgiving Reflection – Michael McFarland SJ
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we are reminded of the importance of gratitude. St. Ignatius emphasized that gratitude was the fundamental virtue and should be the beginning and end of our prayer. The Daily Examen, which he insisted should have the highest priority of all our prayers, begins with recalling all the blessings of the day in a spirit of gratitude. This is the way to deepen our awareness of God as present and active in our lives, filling them with grace and love. In that context we can examine our response to God’s gifts, both our generosity and our failures. In the same vein, the Spiritual Exercises, the blueprint for Ignatian spirituality, ends with the “Contemplation to Obtain the Love of God,” where the retreatant is asked to “ponder with great affection how much God our Lord has done for me, and how much He has given.”
Focusing on gratitude grounds us in the reality of God’s goodness in our lives. It reminds us of all the generous gifts we have received. This deepens our sense of being truly loved and cared for, giving us the confidence to face the future with hope, rather than being trapped in our own petty fears and grievances. Knowing how much we have been given inspires us to want to give in return, something Ignatius always emphasized. It makes a difference. I have found that when I have been part of a group discernment on a difficult issue, starting with a reflection on the blessings we have received frees the participants to listen to one another and consider the greater good rather than narrow self-interest.
We all have so many gifts for which we should be grateful:
- Our parents who loved us into existence and all those who have nourished, protected and guided us
- Our food, shelter, security and all the other necessities of life. These are God’s gifts and do not happen without the labor, commitment and cooperation of many other people.
- The beauty of creation all around us that brings us life and joy.
- Our talents and gifts, and the education and experience that allow us to use them.
- Our family, friends and other relations who enrich and sustain us in so many ways.
- Our faith and all the ways we live it out in worship, prayer, community and service.
We here at the Gregorian University Foundation, along with our partners in Rome, are deeply grateful to you and all our supporters who make possible the work of the Roman institutions on behalf of the worldwide Church. May God bless you and give you a Thanksgiving full of love and joy.
Michael C McFarland, SJ
President, Gregorian University Foundation