Today we celebrate a national holiday. There should be no surprise there as we have several national holidays. Most of them get us a day off from work or school. How much do we really do anything to celebrate some of these holidays? Do you really do anything to celebrate Columbus’ Day? How about Presidents’ Day?
As a Church we don’t do anything to celebrate these two holidays. However, there are others we do celebrate. Labor Day is a national holiday but as people of faith we are called to recognize the good work that we do through the gifts that God gives us.
Today is another national holiday that we should celebrate. Today is Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for? Are you thankful for your car, for a home, or a place to live? Going a little deeper are you thankful for getting an education? Are you thankful for your job? Are you thankful for your family and friends? Are you thankful for your freedom?
The thought of our “freedom” should lead us back to the story of what we consider the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in Massachusetts in the Fall of 1620. They had made the long and difficult voyage across the ocean. They arrived here in the Fall so nothing could be planted until spring. Arriving in a northern climate food was scarce at this time of year. So, even though they had completed the long ocean voyage, life remained very difficult.
They were blessed with help from the local Native Americans. They helped them find food and plant the spring crop. Then that Fall, they gathered to give thanks. They knew they had much to be thankful for. For basic survival, for food, for shelter, for their new Native American friends, and for the harvest.
There was something else they knew they should be thankful for, freedom. Do you remember why the pilgrims came to America? They were Puritans and had not been allowed to freely practice their faith. So, they made the decision to come to America for religious freedom. They were thankful for the opportunity to freely practice their faith.
Four hundred years later, the struggle for religious freedom is taking a new face but the bottom line is, while it can be difficult to publicly talk about and live out our faith, we are free to worship as we please. For this we need to be thankful because even today there are people in the world that are not allowed to practice their Christian faith.
So, what am I thankful for? Of course, there are the basics, food, clothing, a home to live in, and a good car. Going beyond these earthly basics, I am thankful for life itself. I see life as a gift. Life comes with challenges but in life we come to know God’s love.
I am thankful for the gift of faith. I am thankful that God has chosen to reveal himself to us through the Bible and in nature. I am thankful for the example of the martyrs who showed us that our faith is important enough to die for.
I am thankful for the Eucharist. The very word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” I am thankful that Jesus gives us his Body and Blood to strengthen us. I am thankful that Jesus died on the Cross so that our sins can be forgiven.
I am thankful for our parish. I have only been here five months but I have felt very welcomed and appreciated here.
I am thankful that I grew up without having a lot. This might seem odd but I am thankful for not growing up with a lot because I know I can have joy in my life without having a lot of things. When we want a lot of things, there is always more to have and so we might feel lacking. When we let go of the things, we can realize that it is faith in God that we can find what truly makes us whole.
I said before that Thanksgiving is a holiday we should celebrate. I would like to change that. Thanksgiving is a holiday that we need to celebrate. We need to recognize that God has given us much to be thankful for. We need to express our thanks to God. We need to let “thanksgiving” be not just something we do, but something that is part of us. When we live with an “attitude of gratitude” we recognize how much we do have instead of what we don’t have.
What are you thankful for?