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As we get closer to the Thanksgiving holiday, many people turn their thoughts to what they are grateful for. Often, reflecting on our gratitude inspires us to feel more charitable. Around Thanksgiving, there are always more volunteers for soup kitchens, food pantries, and providing meals for others than any other time of year. Organizations frequently have to turn volunteers away that day, while the rest of the year they are begging for help.

This bears reflection. Recognizing that being aware of our giftedness causes us to become more generous is a recognition of the divine in us. Because it is his nature, God made it part of our nature to want to share with others, and that is magnified when we realize all of the ways God has been so good to us.

That thankfulness is written into one of the names we use for the Body of Christ – Eucharist. Eucharist literally means “thanksgiving,” and when we celebrate the Eucharist at Mass, we are praising God in gratitude for all that we have.

When I think about what happens in the Eucharist, I am reminded of something my son used to do when he was little. He wanted to give me gifts, so he would take something that already belonged to me, like a piece of jewelry, wrap it up and present it to me. He had no means of buying me something new, and he knew I already liked the item, so it was a legitimate offering from him.

When we offer God the simple gifts of bread and wine, it’s also an opportunity for us to offer the efforts we made during the week; the sacrifices we made, the care that we took for others, the love we have shared, and even the failures we’ve had. All of those things already belong to God, but he lovingly accepts them from us, makes them into Himself, and gives them back to us to feed and nurture us.

The nature of God is to present us with his self-emptying love; to constantly pour himself into us so that we can become more like him. Becoming more like Christ means recognizing that everything we have really belongs to God and living as generous stewards of those things.

If we can remember this every time we go to Mass, we can make every week like Thanksgiving week. Remaining in an attitude of gratitude when we celebrate and receive the Eucharist can help us to live more generously as individuals and as families.

Jennifer Elsensohn serves as pastoral associate in the Cathedral of St. Robert Bellarmine, Freehold.