November 26, 2017 - The Thirty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Give Thanks to God
Thanksgiving is a unique holiday. On the one hand it is a secular holiday, there’s nothing special in our Catholic liturgy proper to Thanksgiving Day. On the other hand, this holiday was established on a very religious foundation. The tradition of a “Thanksgiving Day” dates back to the early 1600’s when the first settlers arrived in America and established their colonies. Interaction with the Indians certainly occurred along the way, and may have played a role in the early thanksgiving celebrations; but the primary focus was always on giving praise to God, thankful for a successful harvest. Some secular holidays are more laudable than others, but Thanksgiving has to be at the top of the list.
The word thanksgiving, in one form or another, occurs 221 times in the bible. Gratitude is key to our faith and relationship with Almighty God, it is the first necessary step anyone ever takes before deciding to follow Christ. Upon recognition of the countless blessings from God, let alone His sheer goodness, one can’t help but experience a deep sense of gratitude. This gratitude leads us to a love of God, which is always capable of further growth; and this love is what compels us to follow Christ. It is for this reason that it is advisable to always begin one’s prayer, especially a holy hour, with thanksgiving. It fosters a greater appreciation and orients our conversation with God towards a more intimate relationship.
Back to the holiday which is “Thanksgiving,” for it to maintain any significant value we must reject the absurd notion that our faith is somehow private and that prayer shouldn’t have a place of prominence in the public square. One cannot have a public holiday for giving thanks unless there is Someone worth giving thanks to. If we truly are grateful, then we will refuse to be bashful when it comes to our faith. The person we are supposedly thankful for, Jesus Christ, should not be someone we are embarrassed to be seen with in public. Thanksgiving is called for each and every day, not just on the fourth Thursday of November; but this religious, secular, holiday does offer a distinct opportunity.
Hopefully it was a time of communal thanksgiving for you and your family, and your friends. We actually exercise this aspect of our faith whenever we celebrate the Eucharist (which literally means, thanksgiving to God) together, as a community; and the holiday of Thanksgiving simply provides us with an explicit opportunity to extend our communal gratitude beyond the parish grounds and outside of our liturgies. Although the holiday is over, if it had any meaning, its effects will remain. Gratitude for God is not meant to wane, but to ever increase so that our love for God may increase.
Fr. Andrew Bergkamp