Greetings of Christ’s peace and love! Next week comes Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday and an important tradition of our nation remembering the early pilgrims’ first celebration of that thanksgiving meal in the 17th century in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was a great expression of their faith and gratitude to God for all the blessings they received from Him – freedom to express their faith and freedom from political oppression, and also a new-found home filled with opportunity and prosperity. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday after the Civil War in 1863 to give thanks to God and to help heal the wounds and suffering of the nation. Since then it has been observed yearly.
Thanksgiving Day, as one of our oldest traditions, however, has changed significantly over the course of time. It has been reduced to a weekend of sporting events, shopping sprees, parties and vacations marked by strong commercialism and devoid of its national and religious meaning. It is described with fancy nomenclatures such as Cyber Weekend, and the day after as Black Friday. You will also notice few churchgoers attend the Holy Mass on the day itself. The present generation seems to have lost its sense of history. Being thankful seems remote nowadays, and gratitude has become just a figment of the memory.
We need to recapture the original true spirit of this celebration as a day of thanksgiving to God. It was the reason that motivated the pilgrims. Having experienced persecution, sufferings in their journey across the ocean and hardship settling in their new country, they knew these were all God’s blessings, deserving of grateful appreciation. This is exactly what Thanksgiving Day is all about. Like the pilgrims, let us recognize the blessings we have received from God: His gift of precious life, our family and friends, our faith, the Church and the sacraments, joy, peace and religious freedom, the basic necessities and other amenities that provide us comfort and convenience. We tend to forget we have been recipients of many countless gifts that make us celebrate this day as a nation and as a church.
In 2017, Pope Francis instituted the 33rd Sunday of the Year as “Third World Day of the Poor,” calling us to widen our hearts, to hear the cry of the poor, and notice those who do not fully share in the many blessings that we have received. He exhorted us to create “moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity, and concrete assistance” with the poor, with hope that through God’s grace, such encounters will bring transformation not only in the lives of those we meet, but our own hearts as well.
As we enjoy God’s blessings, let us not forget these were meant to be shared with our brothers and sisters who have less, especially the poor, the elderly, the sick, the migrants and refugees, and those in need. Let us all do this in the context of the Holy Mass or Eucharist, the greatest expression of our thanks to God who is the source and fountain of all blessings.
May our celebration remind us of God’s infinite goodness and with His grace inspire us to be grateful not only for the day but for every moment of our lives.
Wishes of God’s blessings and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!