Hearts and minds that are full of gratitude have no room for a sense of entitlement in relation to God or other people.
Gratitude is a sign of faith and of salvation having dawned upon those who recognize how truly good God is and has always been.
“Now is the time to count our blessings!” Bishop W. Shawn McKnight told several hundred people gathered at the Missouri Farm Bureau headquarters in Jefferson City the morning before Thanksgiving Day.
Bishop McKnight was the keynote speaker at the 43rd annual Cole County Prayer Breakfast.
“I am grateful for the gift of my faith, of my Church, of my family and friends, of our gem of a community here in mid-Missouri, and the gift of our country,” he stated.
He said that as a Christian and a Catholic bishop, he knows the importance of having a grateful heart and frame of mind, “especially when we are faced with the challenges of life.”
“And despite all that I find difficult and challenging in the world, in my family and circle of friends — even in my Church — and in myself, I choose to count my blessings and to thank God for all the good that is there,” he said.
Bishop McKnight talked about growing up in a large Catholic family in Kansas, with traditions evolving as older relatives pass away and younger ones spread out and establish their own traditions.
“Now that I am older, I have come to appreciate some of the deeper meanings and values we hold as Americans when we gather as a nation in our homes, with friends and family, to especially thank God for our blessings, each according to their own belief,” he stated.
Bishop McKnight — whose episcopal motto translates to “Let us give thanks to the Lord” — said he chooses to be grateful for all the goodness he sees.
“Sure, there are a lot of challenges in all these places — including me — and there always has been,” he noted. “But how we choose to respond can make a world of difference.”
He pointed to the story in Luke and Matthew about Jesus healing the 10 lepers.
Only one of them returned to Jesus to give thanks.
“It was that healed leper’s expression of gratitude that caused Jesus to say to him: ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
“A new era”
Bishop McKnight called to mind one of his earliest Thanksgiving memories — dressing up with his kindergarten classmates and reenacting the traditional story of the first Thanksgiving Day in this country.
“We were taught to celebrate the beginning of a new era and an ideal example of harmony between peoples of different cultures, religions and languages,” he recalled.
“We celebrated the fellowship that existed between the Pilgrims and the Native Peoples who helped one another succeed,” he said.
That childhood activity was a good reminder of why it’s important for the whole country to take time out to remember this nation’s humble beginnings. Many immigrants past and present came to this land of promise and freedom to get away from religious persecution, famine and wars.
“The difficulties of life can help us to appreciate more the good things in life, as well as the opportunity to bring light into darkness,” the bishop noted. “That is the lesson of that First Thanksgiving that we would do well to remember today.”
He said deliberately recognizing other people’s sacrifices and God’s penchant for drawing light out of darkness is a great motivator for good.
“When we choose to be grateful in our actions, by placing the needs of others before our own, even though we may not feel grateful at the time, those actions change us and those around us,” he stated.
The annual prayer breakfast is organized by the Cole County Chamber of Commerce’s Community Committee.
Harvey Tettlebaum, past president of Temple Beth El in Jefferson City, offered a prayer for this country commonly prayed in Hebrew congregations. It blends passages from the Old Testament books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus with phrases from the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
“We are grateful for the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that our founders ascribed to You, our Creator,” he prayed. “We pray for their wisdom and moral strength, that we may be guardians of these rights for ourselves and for the sake of all people, now and forever.”
A musical ensemble known as the Buffington Brothers, with piano accompaniment by Debbie Poire, sang a harmonious rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” and “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Legends Bank President John Klebba, a member of St. George Parish in Linn, said it was a pleasure to share prayer and fellowship with everyone present.
“You know, in what is unfortunately an increasingly agnostic world, it’s refreshing for a group to put aside their political, religious, philosophical and other differences ... if only for a moment ... to come together in prayer and thanksgiving for all of God’s blessings,” he stated.