On all her great solemnities, Holy Mother Church seeks to inculcate into our souls the sentiments of love and devotion that are most fitting for the mystery celebrated. At Christmas, our joy is that of the new beginning that changes the world; at Easter, the victory of life over death dispels the darkness of our minds; at Ascension, it is the triumph over all evil that lifts our spirits; on Pentecost, the inner fire of love moves us to undertake great things for God. Today, on this Sunday of the Most Holy Trinity, it is overflowing gratitude which rises to the lips of all the Sons and Daughters of the Church. From the very first words of the feast last night at vespers, we are invited to give thanks, give thanks to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the innumerable benefits of creation and redemption that we have contemplated throughout the liturgical year.
What is it to give thanks? St Thomas tells us that gratitude is a virtue which is closely linked with that of justice. In other words, it is a duty of justice to give thanks for the gifts we receive. Now, strictly speaking, gratitude is not justice. We do not strictly speaking thank the butcher who hands us the meat over the counter, nor does he thank us for paying. But there are so many things which surpass the demands of justice and for which we can never give back the equivalent. The first of them is life itself which we have received gratuitously, for we were not around before we existed, and so could have done nothing to deserve it. Life is the very principle of all other goods, but it is not the only gift we have received freely and for which we have a duty of thanks. With life comes the love of parents who fed, clothed and sheltered us, gave us an education and a start in life. But long before our parents and all other benefactors, it is to God Trinity that we owe thanks. It is to His eternal love that we owe the existence of the universe and our place in it. Every single good thing that we receive each day of our lives is an “I love you” from Almighty God, from the bed we take our rest in to the cup of coffee which wakes us up and the sun that enlightens our path.
God is a much greater benefactor than even the best of parents. And there is nothing we can ever give to God as just compensation for all that He gives us. Whence arises the debt of gratitude. God has a right to our thanks. In the apparitions at Paray le Monial, the Sacred Heart said to St Margaret Mary that what hurts him the most is ingratitude. God gives and gives and gives at every moment, and so few stop to say “Thank You, God”.
It is well known that there is a certain time during adolescence when young people think everything is due to them. They are thankless and heartless. But adults too can sometimes show themselves thankless. We’ve all met people who are unable to acknowledge the good they find in others. They always have a better solution and would do things better. And this might be true. But they seem incapable of acknowledging the good that is right there in front of their eyes. We all know how unpleasant that can be, especially when you have worked hard to do something, and it’s just never good enough. It is a lack of gratitude.
Our age is one that is particularly prone to this vice of ingratitude. We are so thankless that we no longer know how to appreciate the simple things of life. We need more and more novel gadgets to make life exciting. We have pushed the vice to its most extreme limits when we are so thankless that we refuse through contraception the new life that God gives, or we destroy it through abortion. We are so lacking in love and respect for our elders that we devise ways of getting them out of the way, all the while making ourselves feel less guilty by telling ourselves that were are just “making them comfortable”. We have even come to the point of being oblivious to the benefits of our sexual complementarity. “If only I had been born a woman, I could have had a baby”. “If only I had been born a man, I could have been a priest”. The thankless caprice of the adolescent is all too clear in such nonsense. In the end, it is the vice of ingratitude. Like degenerate children who fail to acknowledge what they have received from their parents, we have failed to give God credit for the wonders of his creation.
We often meet people who say things such as: “If there were a God, the world would be a better place” or “If Jesus were God, He would have not been crucified and rejected by His own people” or “If the Catholic Church were the real Church, all Catholics would be nice” or “if this Pope were really the Vicar of Christ he would not be doing what he does”, etc. All these protests have one common denominator, namely that they fail to see all the good there is; they do not look at the broader picture. There is much good in the world, and if there were no God, there would be none at all. Jesus abundantly proved His divinity, and His acceptance of death only confirms the love God has for us. The Catholic Church has far more charitable activities than all other institutions in the world combined, and this shows that, in spite of the many failings of individual Catholics, that goodness points to the presence of God among us. The Pope does preach the faith and he does give good examples, even if he could do a better job of it. And which one of us couldn’t be better at what we do?
Gratitude, real deep gratitude for all that we have received is the answer to such attitudes which hurt the heart of God and wound our neighbour. If we feel powerless to give thanks as we ought, that is a good feeling, for we are. That is precisely why the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been given to us as the greatest gift and the supreme and perfect act of thanksgiving for the gift. The very word Eucharist means thanksgiving. As we prepare now to offer the Sacrifice and to give thanks, let us unite our minds and hearts with the angels and saints of whom several grandiose visions are presented to us in the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse or Revelation. A constant feature of these songs of praise is giving glory and praise and thanks to God, who in the end will be acknowledged by all as the source of all good. For all eternity, the elect will have on their lips a song of praise that they will never tire of singing, because there it will be all too evident to us how much God has loved us and how much we owe Him, namely everything, and so we will lovingly give ourselves over to Him, our hearts overflowing with gratitude.
And the four and twenty ancients who sit on their seats in the sight of God, fell on their faces and adored God, saying: We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, who art and who wast and who art to come: because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and thou hast reigned…. Give praise to our God, all ye his servants: and you that fear him, little and great. … Let us be glad and rejoice and give glory to him. For the marriage of the Lamb is come: and his wife hath prepared herself. … Blessed are they that are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb… These words of God are true (Ap 11:16-17; 19:5-9).
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.