Daily Reflection
November 24th, 2005

Robert P. Heaney

John A. Creighton University Chair
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Thanksgiving Day / USA

Sirach 50:22-24
1 Chronicles 29:10bc, 11, 12
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Luke 17:11-19

"It is right to give him thanks . . ." Introduction to Preface at Mass.

Thanksgiving came early for me this year. I was in Toronto on Canada's Thanksgiving Day (second Monday in October) and attended Mass at St. Michael's Cathedral there. The congregation was encouraged to be grateful for all our blessings and to pray for those "less fortunate" than us. By "blessings" the preacher presumably meant such traditional good things as a rich harvest, good health, loving families, job security, and so forth. And indeed, we should be thankful to God for all God's gifts.

But I found myself wondering about the Tsunami victims of last Christmastime, the earthquake victims in south central Asia that very weekend, our own Katrina victims, not to mention those persons around me in church that day who may be living with cancer, or in abusive relationships, or are unemployed and desperate. These persons and the many like them - perhaps the majority of those with whom we share this planet - don't seem to share the "blessings" that are the ostensible occasion of our Thanksgiving celebrations. Had not God blessed them? Is Thanksgiving a victory celebration for the winners of a cosmic lottery? What is gratitude to God all about?

In my struggle to make sense of this, there was one thing of which I could be absolutely certain: God blesses everyone. God's love holds us in existence every minute of every day. As we say in the introduction to the Eucharistic prayer at Mass, "It is right to give Him thanks". Most Prefaces amplify that by adding affirmation ". . . always and everywhere . . ." In every circumstance, no matter how good or bad it may seem. Thanks for the greatest of all possible gifts, the gift of God Himself, the gift of Jesus.

The Liturgy, with its customary genius, skirts the secular symbols of the season entirely - the cornucopias and pumpkins, the sheaves of wheat and bunches of grapes - which some people do have, but many do not. The preface for Thanksgiving Day goes directly to thanks for God's promise that "all would be blessed, all could be free", a promise, the words go on to remind us, fulfilled in Jesus, who took on himself all our misfortunes, our shames, our deaths, and by conquering them has destroyed their power over us. It is for this that we rightly give thanks at every Eucharist. For Christians everywhere, and particularly those who celebrate Eucharist, every day is Thanksgiving Day. Do I perhaps too easily lose sight of that?

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