A true Thanksgiving

gratitude-2In a few days, in Italy, where we follow the Hungarian liturgical calendar, we are going to have one of the most joyful celebrations of the Unitarian tradition: the Thanksgiving day.
What is this celebration? Just the time when we want to say our thanks to the Entity which we consider superior to us, however we call it: God , Spirit of life , the Transcendent …the names don’t matter because each of us knows exactly who he is going to speak to.
Why do we say thank you? Maybe we think that there is little to be thankful for at this time when everyone, some more, some less, are touched, sometimes even in depth, by an economic crisis that seems to limit our horizons and our hopes. Or we think that everything that we have achieved is the result of our work, of our efforts, and that our successes have nothing to do with anything transcendent.
Yet, I just wish we stopped for a moment to reflect on a datum, to answer to a question: which is the essential element that unites all times of joy we have ever lived, we live and we will live in our lives? Which is the necessary condition for any feeling of happiness that has at any time touched, touches or we wish will touch our hearts?
You have five seconds to find an answer within your heart:
… four
… three
… two
… one …
Okay, found it? I am sure you have, because the answer is so easy to be contained in the question itself : the necessary condition to know at least a moment of happiness in life is life itself and it is for life, for our lives and for the lives of those we love that in a few days we will give thanks to God.
Yes, I know , most likely some of us are thinking, or at some time in their lives have thought, it would have been better never to be born, that life is just a great suffering without meaning, a continuous accumulation of problems and problems .
It’s true: sometimes life is just like that! Life can be complicated and not, as some say, especially now : it always has been, in every age, at every latitude. The complication is a constitutive part of life so that when, for whatever reason, it flows too placid, like a slow lazy river, in the end we like it less, it appears to us as dull, monotonous, even harassing and we end up trying to complicate it  on our own, at least a little bit, perhaps even inadvertently.
Why? Because the force of life, its true beauty, stands in every small achievement, internal or external as it could be, in every step we take, no matter how difficult it may be, in every obstacle that we overcome with the consciousness of having done our best.
But life, which is also this, is not only this. Let’s forget about sad medieval or counterreformation philosophers and theologians speaking of life as a kind of battlefield, a difficult test to earn heaven or hell. What a sad vision these people had to have about God to make Him just a kind of judge or referee, intent to measure with a precision balance how much faith we have shown, if we have always been obedient to laws , if we have suffered and cried for the wounds of Jesus, if we were always strong in faith in the face of adversity!
Let’s forget that God of pain, that little sadist God who already knows how things will end but, the same, tests us by placing before us a stake after another. That God is not our God, that God is the product of sad,darkened, depressed minds, locked in prisons they have built with their hands, both physical prisons, made of cold and wet cells of monasteries, and mental prisons, made of dogmas and inviolable formulas. That God is the result of a human thought which closes its borders, which limits its gaze.
Our God, the Deity we believe in is different : our God is a loving God, who created us with love and for love. He is a God who Himself is love and, as such, He is a God of the possible, a God of hope .
Did you happen to be in love? Not of God, I mean, but of a man or a woman ? What is the first gift that springs inside of us when we are in love? Beyond any connotation or any momentary specification, the first gift of love is hope and, with hope, joy.
Another “five seconds question”: can you remember a time, during last year, in which at least for a moment you felt full of joy and hope? Try to visualize it and to remember what you felt. But be careful: you must not think about great joys or incredible moments. I do not think many of you this year have won the Lotto or have had a promotion that has doubled your salary or have had a turning point in their lives: these are rare things, drops of impossible that sometimes fall on this or that life but they are not, after all, part of the lives of many. I am referring to a very simple moment: a sudden revelation, a kiss, a hug, a handshake that made us feel human warmth, even just a glance that we did not expect.
Here we are, let’s try to visualize that moment. Five
… four
… three
… two
… one …
Done? How did you feel ? Well, I guess. I do not see you, but I’m sure that at least some of you are smiling: to remember a moment of joy and hope is, somehow, like living it again .
Well, now, after having thought about that moment of joy, try to think that it wouldn’t have existed if you hadn’t been alive, if at a certain moment of the long flow of time God had not decided, in an unexpected and free act of love, to create us, to give us life .
Don’t you feel, now, a little bit more in love with life? I hope so . And being in love with life means being in love for the sake of the One who gave it to us . Don’t we want to say “thank you” to Him? At least a small “thank you”, even only for that instant?
Of course we are all polite people and perhaps you have already thanked, at least in your heart if not verbally, the person who gave us that moment of joy, warmth and hope.
But there is the necessary condition of which we have spoken: if you have felt it was right to say “thank you” for a moment, isn’t it right that we say “thanks” to the One who made this moment possible and, hopefully, will make many other moments like that possible?
So, let’s say thank you to life, to the force of life, to the possibility of life and, in doing so, let’s say “thank you” to the One who gave us this force, this possibility. Let’s thank God and say it together, because together, holding hands at least virtually, our thanks from a whisper becomes a roar inside of us, it becomes a new force of life and hope.
This would already be enough. I do not believe in a God that spends his infinite time listening to praise and aggrandizement as a king sitting on his throne: I believe, though, in a God who loves and, as such, loves to be loved and there is no form of greater love than to feel gratitude for the love that you receive.
Yes, that would be enough. But something more is perhaps possible.
You’ll certainly happened to go to dinner with friends or relatives. What do you do when you go? Well, we said we are polite people, and as such, most likely we bring flowers, chocolates, a bottle of wine with us: in short, anything that could tangibly show our gratitude and our love. It is not necessary, we all know: the true friends know that love does not depend on a small gift, which is just something more, a way that, when there is a bond of love, just goes to show deeper feelings. It is not necessary, but we do it and we feel good doing it.
Well, what I’d like to ask to everybody, if you can, if you feel it is right, is to do the same to God: bring a flower to life, bring a flower to God, resolve to do it and do it really.
How? Please do not bring flowers in front of a statue or picture: a statue or a painting can’t care less about our flowers, rotting there until someone throws them away.
It is not in a statue or an icon that we have the image of God, but in our brethren, in those who share with us the inexhaustible gift of life. It is to them that we can bring our symbolic flower, trying to make their lives at least a little less complicated: let’s give an helping hand, let’s give a little help to those in need, let’s give a smile to those who receive too few smiles, let’s pay attention to those around us, let’s donate a bit of human warmth. For each person we will be agents of joy and hope for, we will say thank you to our God for our lives, we will be partakers of that great stream of love and hope that is life itself, the same life for which we are giving thanks to God.