Not everyone enjoys a welcome home at Thanksgiving, but on that day there is hardly a soul that does not long to be with family and friends. In the days running up to this most iconic of family meals, no effort is spared to get some turkey onto everyone’s table, including those away from home or with no place to call their own.
Even strangers are invited to join in! Every year we delight in the heartwarming stories of the outreach made to bring people around what is really a rather basic repast.
For, let’s face it, it really isn’t about the food but rather what it means for us all: people bonding with one another. No one eats T.V. dinners on Thanksgiving without breaking an unwritten code: something must be shared and eaten together.
At no time of year do people travel in greater numbers to more places in so short a timespan — all of which suggests that, if you really know what home is, you can find the time and the means to get there. Not always though! We are particular mindful of those unable to be as close to loved ones as they long to, distanced by illness or special responsibilities or some form of boundary imposed by legal, political or economic circumstance.
Those who serve our country in the armed forces, in particular, as well as journalists and missionaries assisting others abroad feel a certain tug at the heart. This feeling in itself forms a connection with the folks back home, both hurting and healing in the bittersweet marriage of hope and memory — not unlike the Eucharistic bond that unites us here on Earth with our heavenly home.
Indeed we are never closer to heaven than when gathered around the Lord’s table at Mass, which forms and celebrates the Communion of Saints, reaching beyond the great divide that death imposes and Christ’s cross destroys.
While there is much to praise and celebrate at Thanksgiving, how much more is there to rejoice about at every Mass! If there is one gift for which we can all thank God on Thanksgiving Day that surpasses even the communion of family, friend and stranger on earth — it is the Divine Host whom, absent from our home, we would have no home that outlasts our brief moment in history. Jesus is that bridge who links our past to our future.
In Him, all of the memories we have become so many themes and preludes for the great symphony of Eternal Life that is music to the ears of angels and saints — and will be, God willing, to ours some day.
The irony that “Eucharist” itself means “Thanksgiving” is not to be missed or taken lightly. That the Church’s mission, in its very essence, is all about thanksgiving and homecoming is also a reminder that we have an everlasting home.
This is a sustained source of hope and joy to those whose memory or present experience of home may bring as much the pain of loss or incompleteness as any feeling of security and comfort.
May our communion with our Divine Host bring everyone closer together knowing that forgiveness is given at the door for all who seek to enter a home full of welcome.