by Msgr. Joseph P. Calise
EVER SINCE I was a kid, this was a special time of year. I have always liked the brisk weather of fall and the magic of the leaves changing colors. Nature comes so alive at this time of year that its energy is contagious.
Thanksgiving was always a special day. Of course, to a kid, every holiday is special. Even though each had a particular way to be celebrated, Thanksgiving was in a class by itself. First of all, it was a day that knew no limits. It was a day when there was no call to be frugal or to “leave something for everyone else.” Food and friends were always abundant.
Secondly, it was the harbinger of more celebrating. Every Thanksgiving morning we would sit glued to the television watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Float after float and band after band made the excitement grow until at the very end of the line Santa appeared and the holiday season began (although the holy season of Advent does not begin for two more weeks).
Thanksgiving began with a very simple idea. A struggling people took the time to count their blessings. Rather than focus on what they lacked, they gave thanks for what they had. This spirit of gratitude inspired very different people to sit together and form a bond of mutual respect and support. The original Thanksgiving wasn’t about abundance – it was about coming together to share gratitude.
It is often said at 12-step meetings (such as Alcoholics Anonymous; Narcotics Anonymous; Overeaters, Gamblers and Debtors Anonymous) that you cannot be grateful and unhappy at the same time. I know in my life that the practice of making a gratitude list, the simple art of taking the time to count my blessings, often works wonders.
Different Point of View
Today’s Gospel invites us to look at the tally of our blessings from a different point of view. Imagine for a moment twin brothers who each receive the same toy as a Christmas gift. Both say, “Thank you.” But then one proceeds to put the toy away with his other toys, while the other uses it for hours. Both were grateful for the gift, but which of them pleased the gift-giver more?
Unfortunately, my list of blessings and the list of blessings I have used well are not always the same length. Take, for example, the gifts of the Holy Spirit given us at Confirmation (piety, counsel, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, fortitude and reverence for the Lord). I believe I received them all but cannot say that I have always relied on them. Just like that little boy who put his new toy away with the others, an unopened gift is not the intent of the giver.
The Gospel makes clear the simple point that the monies entrusted to each servant were entrusted to be used. The one servant who is cast away from the master’s house in the long form of the Gospel is cast away because he did nothing with the master’s gift. The problem wasn’t that he didn’t make enough profit, but that he did nothing at all.
As I have gotten older, the Thanksgiving season has remained a favorite time of the year for me. It’s still my kind of weather and a great season for eating (especially for those of us who like fruits and vegetables).
But I have to admit my thoughts on Thanksgiving have changed. It’s still one of the best meals of the year and remains the official opening of the holiday shopping season, but it has come to mean much more for me. It has come to be a time when thanking God for all the good we have also means doing something in return – saying a prayer and making a gift for the poor; celebrating with loved ones includes calling a faraway relative; visiting a neighbor who is spending the day alone.
Simply put, Thanksgiving is not only about counting the blessings in my life, but also letting the Master know they are appreciated.
Readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Proverbs 31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Psalm 128: 1-2, 3, 4-5
1 Thessalonians 5: 1-6
Matthew 25: 14-30 or
Matthew 25: 14-15, 19-21
Msgr. Calise is the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka and Transfiguration parish, Maspeth.