Shared from the 11/18/2018 San Antonio Express eEdition


Faith leaders share views on Thanksgiving

Marvin Pfeiffer / Staff photographer

Sister Martha Ann Kirk, a professor at the University of the Incarnate Word, says gratitude “is a muscle to be developed.”

Tom Reel / Staff photographer

Soldiers enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner at Camp Bullis in 2016. Local faith leaders say gratitude is what we most need, despite hardships and losses.

Tom Reel / Staff photographer

Donald Kearney performs a song of thanks in San Fernando Cathedral in November 2017.

Sitting around the Thanksgiving table will be harder this year for families suffering hardship and loss. Some won’t come together at all or have little around which to gather. In a year of divisiveness, others will struggle to keep the peace as they pass the peas.

A few of the city’s beloved faith leaders say that’s why we need to give ourselves a break this Thanksgiving, no less to count blessings.

They want you to know that gratitude takes effort. Like a muscle, says Sister Martha Ann Kirk, gratitude must be worked. When asked to pen a few words on the topic, all five called on the wisdom of saints and scholars. They looked back and to the future and concluded that gratitude is still what we most need.

You’ll need muscles

The first female theologian to write in the English language, Julian of Norwich, saw half the population die of bubonic plague. In the midst of all this Julian rested near the compassionate heart of the Holy One. She could say, “All shall be well. All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well.” Julian lived in gratitude rather than fear or anger.

Gratitude is not so much a feeling, as a muscle to be developed. As one makes daily efforts, the muscle gets stronger. It becomes easier to look up and see the stars rather than down and see the mud. We can make a choice to be openhearted and open-minded. Each event, each person of the day is a gift. Do I make quick decisions that I don’t like the color of the wrapping paper, or do I take the time to unwrap this and welcome the gift inside?

Sister Martha Ann Kirk, professor, University of the Incarnate Word, member, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word

Love is gratitude

Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard said that to be a saint is “to will the one thing,” namely, God and the life of service. As excellent as that definition is, it needs some qualification in terms of our motivation for willing that one thing. To be a saint, one must also to be fueled by gratitude.

The holiest person you know is the most grateful person you know. That is true too for love; the most loving person you know is also the most grateful person you know, because even love finds its basis in gratitude. Anything we call love that is not rooted in gratitude will, at the end of the day, be manipulative and self-serving.

When we try to root our love in anything else — shared ideology, ethnicity, gender, pity, cause, religion or anger — it will invariably be more self-serving than life-giving. Real love roots itself in gratitude.

Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, president, Oblate School of Theology

God’s standing ovation

The grateful heart is like a magnet sweeping over the day, collecting reasons for gratitude. A zillion diamonds sparkle against the velvet of your sky every night. Thank you, God. A miracle of muscles enables your eyes to read these words and your brain to process them. Thank you, God. Your lungs inhale and exhale 11,000 liters of air every day. Your heart will beat about 3 billion times in your lifetime, and your brain is a veritable electric generator of power. Thank you, God.

For the jam on our toast and the milk in our cereal. For the blanket that calms us and the joke that delights us and the warm sun that reminds us of God’s love. For the thousands of planes that did not crash today. For the kids who, in spite of unspeakable pressure to dishonor their parents, decided not to do so. Thank you, Lord.

Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. Join the ranks of those who give God a standing ovation. “Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

Max Lucado, author, teaching minister, Oak Hills Church. Text adapted by permission.

We’re in this together

The founding of Mission San Antonio de Valero in 1718 happened because of a sacred purpose. This Thanksgiving calls us to continue that sacred purpose. As those before us, we must sustain the personal and civic relationships that harness the capacity of a city to do good. We must dream the big dreams and marshal the resources to create something bigger than any one of us could do alone.

San Antonio is a work in progress. More challenges await us. Give thanks by getting involved in making this community the best it can be, where everyone is valued, and our values guide a common life. And on this tricentennial Thanksgiving, remember we are in this together.

Father David Garcia, administrator, Mission Concepción; director, Old Spanish Missions

Civic good, civil ways

Throughout the global network of more than 400 Compassionate Cities, our city is known for acts of compassion. We find shelter for those without, share food with those who hunger, welcome those who migrate from despair. We comfort those distressed in mind and heart, fill the gaps between those who are fostered and will become our future and accompany those discriminated against and who suffer from past harms.

From our top civic leaders to our wee ones and the next generation of leaders, we learn compassion. May we gather in gratitude and garner hope in each other not just at Thanksgiving but every day.

And in that, may we continue to engage in working together across boundaries and barriers toward the civic good, most importantly in civil ways. May whatever puts us at odds and polarizes us be more than counterbalanced by the compassionate life stories among us that pull us together, that connect us, that remind us that we are all vulnerable, that charge our compassionate humanity in service to each other.

May this be so, Compassionate San Antonio.

Rev. Ann Helmke, City of San Antonio faith-based community liaison

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