you is not an easy thing to say. I think back to the trick-or-treaters at
Halloween. For the first hour or two, nearly every parent needed to prompt
his or her child with “What do you say?” Only at a time well into the evening
was “Thank you” an automatic response. Expectations of when it should be
used vary widely. Last weekend, my teenage sons were at home alone as my
wife and I were out of town for a wedding. When we returned, the oldest son
pointed out that they didn’t have a party while we were gone, and he thought
that expressing our gratitude would be appropriate. My response was to give
my son a list of things he had not accomplished. I asked him if he also expected
thanks for those things. On reflection, I began to recognize the relevance
of thanks for acts of omission. I thought about the number of times I offered
prayers of thanksgiving for not being hurt in an accident. My son may not
have been so far off once we start to consider everything as a gift.
Today’s readings are expressions of hope and optimism. They make that assumption
that everything is a gift. I recognize that I do not always think that way.
It is easy to know that if you expect nothing, you are never disappointed.
I think today’s readings take us much farther. They bring us to God out of
a sense of awe and wonder.
In the reading from Sirach, we feel part of God’s master plan. The spirit
of today’s holiday is found in the thanks given to a wondrous God with recognition
of the internal peace and joy that life brings.
The psalmist extols a great and glorious God in a literary style whose structure is less appreciated in translation.
Paul gives spiritual thanksgiving in the second reading.
In the Gospel, we are promised what we need. All we must do is ask. I am
taken back to the "magic" words of my childhood – please and thank you. I
look at how much of my prayer is directed along these lines. Sometimes I
am embarrassed by this. In today's Gospel I am reassured.
Where does Thanksgiving take me this year? I admit to reading the ads and
planning for the attack on the early bird specials tomorrow. What matters
about this holiday? What strikes me as being really important? It's not the
football. (This is a dangerous thing to put in writing in Nebraska. Well,
maybe not this year.) What matters to me is the family. We lead such busy
lives and it is a time for everyone to be at the same place at the same time.
It is a time to remember all the things that are gifts – The geese on the
lake, another year without a traffic accident, boys who are doing well at
My prayer today is to recognize the gifts in my life. My prayer is that I
remain aware of what really matters. I pray that I remember to give thanks
to my God and to those who are close to me. I know that I often take them
for granted. Thank you for the sunset. Thank you for doing the dishes. Thank
you for folding the laundry. Thank you for not having the party last weekend.