Tsk tsk tsk

Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., Noah offers Sacrifice (used with permission)

“If it’s one thing I am,” Mrs. Turpin said with feeling, “it’s grateful. When I think who all I could have been besides myself and what all I got, a little of everything, and a good disposition besides, I just feel like shouting, ‘Thank you, Jesus, for making everything the way it is!’ It could have been different!” —Flannery O’Connor, “Revelation”

What happens when we say “thank you”? Simply put, our gratitude is expressed, the receiver feels appreciated, and we skirt having a mindset of undue entitlement because we’ve confessed our indebtedness. It would be incredibly uncomfortable for everyone involved if a friend lent us some money and we hurriedly snatched it without so much as a headnod. Thank-yous are natural. Emotionally charged greed is not.

Right now, millions of Americans are pausing from the political arena to battle each other in the Black Friday marketplace. They spent all day yesterday giving thanks for what they have, and today they only have on their mind what they don’t.

Right now, millions of Americans are refusing to leave home, pretending to continue their Thanksgiving. They’re watching these battles on television or reading blog posts condemning unrestrained capitalism, praying, “God, thank you for not making us like these shoppers! Thank you that this household knows what Christmas is really about. (Besides, we’ll shop online in a few weeks to get some good deals.)”

In “Revelation,” Mrs. Turpin gives thanks according to her superficial worldview. A younger girl listens until her patience is exhausted, launches a book toward Mrs. Turpin’s head, and subsequently gives her a tongue-licking that she’s never had before. Mrs. Turpin’s self-perception is shattered when God shows his love in ways she couldn’t have fathomed. A vision manifests itself in which everyone she had looked down upon in her life is lifted up to heaven in front of her. She realizes (to her bewilderment) that the exalted are humbled, and those humbled by the world enter the kingdom in pride of place. This uncomfortable discovery shows her that her gratitude was nothing more than a puffing up of hollow, ephemeral niceties.

The purpose of gratitude is lost as soon as it picks up an air of irony. God doesn’t need to be told he’s appreciated; we need the reminder that what we’ve been given isn’t ours. It’s love that motivates, not egotism. Thanksgiving isn’t thanksgiving when we regard the pitiable state of another and think, “Thank God I’m not like that,” but when we know the pitiable state of our own selves and think, “Thank God I’m not what I deserve to be.”

Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., Noah offers Sacrifice (used with permission)

You May Also Enjoy:

Peter’s Brother Andrew is like most of the apostles. While tradition may have favored him more than others, Scripture doesn’t shine the spotlight on him like the three that have all the fun. Peter, James, and John are invited into houses when the Lord heals the sick or raises the dead; they get to go up to the mountain to witness the Transfiguration; they’re closer to him during the agony in the garden, and later it’s especially their acts that are recorded and ...
Thanks for Your Great Glory The Church places the ancient Latin hymn, the Te Deum, at the end of the year as a way of giving solemn thanks to God.  The Manual of Indulgences grants an indulgence to the faithful who pray it in a church on the final day of the year as a way of thanking God for all the benefits He has bestowed on them throughout the year (#26, §1, 2°).   Yet, this traditional hymn of thanksgiving does not have any explicit mention of giving thanks. A Cathol...
The Finer Things On one of the most satisfying nights at college, I did nothing but sit on a porch with two close friends. The three of us (Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish) followed our weekly routine of gathering over beer and cigars either to bash Hegel, scratch our heads over Heidegger, praise Meister Eckhart, or talk about some spiritual topic from our respective traditions. This particular night, one of us noted that the contrast between the noise from the pa...
Look at me, really Annoyance was the only way to describe it. Day after day this past summer in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I walked six blocks from our priory to the office where I was interning. A normal day would include one or two interactions with passersby asking, “What are you?” or some question about the Church. Besides these fruitful conversations, though, I usually received several half-crazed, half-disgusted glares as people gawked at my habit, loo...
Br. John Thomas Fisher, O.P.

Written by:

Br. John Thomas Fisher grew up in Easley, SC. After becoming a Catholic ​in high school, he studied philosophy and French at the University of South Carolina. Upon graduating, he worked at a bookstore and church doing maintenance for a year before entering the Order in 2013. Brother John Thomas first became acquainted with the Dominicans during a trip in college to Rome. On DominicanFriars.org