My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As we celebrate this Thanksgiving holiday, it is always an opportunity for us to reflect on what we have to be thankful for and count our blessings.
Each morning we priests offer the Holy Eucharist. The word comes from the Greek — thanksgiving. We must nurture a grateful spirit. It is especially appropriate that as a nation we celebrate the importance of Thanksgiving, just as the Church enters into the First Sunday in Advent, a time of expectation. The most important thing we can be grateful for is that God chose to be among us and redeem us.
We especially must keep this in mind when we face the curveballs and the ups and downs in life. It is in these moments precisely when we need to recognize that no man is an island. In moments of isolation, we are reminded that God is always with us.
As members of His Church, the people of God, our home is the place where God dwells and it is around His table we gather. What is the special gift or blessing that we wish to thank God for this Thanksgiving? One of the Confirmation sermons that I give reflects on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I get the attention of those to be Confirmed by asking them, “What is the greatest or best gift that you have ever received in your lifetime?” promising them that on the day of their Confirmation they would receive an even greater gift.
I ask them, “Was it a Christmas gift or a birthday gift that they really wanted?” One time, as I posed these questions, a mother raised her hand and said, “Bishop, the greatest gifts I ever received were my children.” Well, as you know, mothers know things that other people do not know. How correct she was when she anticipated what I was trying to teach those to be Confirmed. The best gifts we receive in life are the relationships with those around us; no particular thing could ever take the place of the people in our lives.
In my own family, on Thanksgiving Day it has become a tradition that my great nieces and nephews put on a little play on the origins of this unique American holiday and why we should be thankful for our great Nation.
As I reflect on our Thanksgiving celebration, it is for the people who are in my life and those who were once part of my life that I am most thankful for today. I believe that this is how we can truly celebrate this Thanksgiving — by trying to reflect on the great gifts of people we have received in life, whether they be our parents, children, relatives, friends or whoever truly has made our life worthwhile and valuable.
At least during the time of these holidays, we are also painfully aware of the loss of or broken relationships that burden us. Hopefully, we can turn those moments of disappointment into moments of hope where we try to plan for a better future. Perhaps the question we must ask ourselves during this Thanksgiving holiday is, “Who is the person most important to me in my life and why are they important?” As we understand human relationships, we are able to develop our relationship with God.
The mystery of the Trinity truly is one of relationship. The Father, Son and Spirit are related in such a unique way that they are one God. Perhaps, however, we must ask ourselves, “Who is God as a person for me? When I pray, do I address it to the Father or to Jesus as Savior and Brother, or to the Spirit, the Paraclete, the one sent by Jesus to guide us, to bring us wisdom and forgiveness?” No matter to whom, whichever person of the Trinity we address our prayer, one substitutes for the other, although we can pray in different ways to each person of the Trinity.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, it can be the role of the oldest or the youngest, or anyone, to say “grace” at the beginning of the Thanksgiving meal. Keep in mind the things which we must be thankful. First of all, remember God whose personal relationship to us is so important, then each other, and finally our country.
We thank the Lord for what we have and have had in the past. This celebration of Thanksgiving is a time to put out into the deep recesses of our consciousness, to remember the people who have made us who we are and those who continue to support us. May you and your families have a blessed Thanksgiving, one that is reflective and assists you to see the deeper meaning of life.