Boxing champion Manny Pacquiao kneels to Him at every fight. Basketball superstar Steph Curry points to Him after making three-point shots.
Award-winning stars include Him in the thank-you speech. And three out of every five Americans said thanks to Him on Thanksgiving Day three weeks ago.
President Rodrigo Duterte says of his election victory: “I tend to believe now, that it was God who gave it to me.”
Then there’s Davao City church worker Dennis Larida, who lost his wife and his son to a terrorist bombing on Sept. 2, which killed 15.
“It’s very painful, but I am not questioning God,” Larida told the Christian network CBN News. “It is His will for my wife and my son to be in the glory of the Lord. I thank God for the strength He is giving me.”
For countless people in all sorts of situations, God provides some need or want. Life and sustenance. Family and friends. Health and wealth. Talent and success. And the strength, purpose and hope to bear pain and tragedy.
The first step to be holy
How about you? What do you need from God?
If you have to think hard about your answer, maybe you feel you don’t need much from Him, like the rich guy who Jesus warned would find it harder to reach heaven than a camel going through the eye of a needle.
Those who don’t need God, have no reason to pray, thank, obey or even believe.
Hence, faith tends to wane as nations get richer, more educated, and more powerful. And rags-to-riches tycoons fancy themselves as “self-made men.”
Ironically, the ones endowed by God with great wealth, knowledge and power end up thinking they don’t need Him. That’s why camels threading needles have it easier than billionaires entering heaven. The rich don’t even seek Him and His bounty.
For this reason, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” was the first of Jesus’s Eight Beatitudes leading to holiness and happiness.
This first step on the road to heaven opens the door and lays the foundation for closeness, devotion and obedience to the Lord.
For the poor in spirit finds His providence and grace in everything, and constantly worships, thanks, asks, and uses everything received from Him for His will. That’s holy.
Now, poverty in spirit doesn’t mean having nothing to do with wealth, power, and learning. Rather, it means using these bounties from God for His Kingdom.
Thus, there are saints among monarchs endowed with wealth and power, like Louis IX of France, Stephen I of Hungary, Leopold III of Austria, Jadwiga of Poland, and Wenceslaus of Bohemia, immortalized in the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslaus”.
Acknowledging our total dependence on God is also truthful. If, as Catholics declare in the Credo at Mass, He is the almighty Creator of heaven and earth, then He gave us all we are and have, from our life to our talents, bounties, joys and, yes, pains.
And even the most successful, rich, powerful, learned, and talented person cannot claim that he or she climbed to that pinnacle entirely on his or her own. After all, everyone began as a helpless soul needing nurturing in a mother’s womb, even the Son of God.
Hence, it is plain honesty to affirm that we owe entities outside ourselves, including God, our being, life, growth, and gains.
Dependence on Him doesn’t mean doing nothing to obtain what we need and want, for inaction closes the door to His bounty. A student who doesn’t study, blocks the Lord from helping him pass or excel.
On the other hand, just because we harness human industry, ingenuity, instruments and institutions, doesn’t mean God did not provide.
God graces our efforts, as He did with Moses in liberating the Israelites from Egypt. And He became man to save the world with Mary’s cooperation.
Quite simply, without God, no deliverance, and indeed, no creation, whether in six days or 6 billion years.
Ditto everybody’s birth, growth, and achievements. While life follows earthly rules and ways, the faithful believe God spurs and sustains every direction and development, even the ordinary course of events.
No thanks be to God
In our modern time, however, more and more people see nothing to thank God for. Instead, they credit wealth, knowledge, power, science and technology for their good life, health, success, comfort, and happiness. Until misfortune strikes.
Nothing new. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, one of our greatest theologians, said the story of Adam and Eve showed how men try to be like God by their own devices, even breaking His commandments, until the wages of sin leads back to faith.
Today, amazing gadgets and secular society tempt believers to ignore God and thank His providence less or never. Many families don’t even pray at meals anymore.
And when God is no longer thanked, then His worship, word and will are also forgotten.
Thankfully, the Philippines remains faithful. A 2012 global survey by the University of Chicago, “Beliefs about God Across Time and Countries,” counted 94 percent of Filipinos expressing strong and constant faith in God — highest in the world.
This Christmas and the coming year, let thankfulness toward the Lord be a constant in our daily life, at meals and Mass, work and leisure; for material and spiritual needs, and everyone and everything we treasure and encounter. Even hardship, which should make us stronger, more caring, and much closer to and trusting in God.
And when others disdain our faith and thanks for the Lord, as some comments might, hold fast. It’s humble, honest and holy. Amen.
(As part of Advent spirituality, readers may consider the webinar on Tuesday 9 a.m. Philippine time, titled “Reflections on the Nativity in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke” < http://www.ucatholic.com/nativity-webinar?utm_campaign=Re-marketing+Email&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=39359251&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9yHv3EFkS7GD1VlZN6woyOc7d4EXsU7AnA3AOTcAHqHwJ3nvlgbVD4lmRQwOFNIXLeAKTn7Hu8GZYrVe6HBC2halMA7A&_hsmi=39359251 >.)