Today we celebrate Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the United States. The first Thanksgiving happened almost 400 years ago when the Puritans came to the colonies and arrived in what would become Massachusetts. It was very hard for them to find food and basic necessities of life. Fortunately, they received help from the Native Americans and planted the first year’s crop. When harvest time came, they realized they needed to give thanks, thanks to the natives and to God. Ever since then our nation has celebrated Thanksgiving.
We can all face struggles in our lives. Our struggles today are different from those of the early pilgrims. Sometimes people think if they just believe in Jesus there shouldn’t be any struggle. Jesus never says we won’t face struggles. In Matthew 11:30, Jesus says, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” He doesn’t say we will have no burden but it is made easier when we realize that Jesus walks with us through our struggles. (Remember Jesus knows what it is like to suffer, as He suffered arrest, mockery, beatings, and crucifixion for us.)
Thanksgiving is celebrated as a day of thanksgiving once a year but we are called through faith to be thankful everyday. The word “Eucharist” comes from a Greek word that means thanksgiving. Listen to the words in the prefaces and the eucharistic prayers used at Mass. “Giving thanks” is always part of our prayers at Mass.
When we take the time to realize and appreciate what we can be thankful for, it helps us when things aren’t going so well. Think of the wars and violence that happen across our world. How many come because of people focusing on what they don’t have? Sometimes they are lacking real needs like food. Sometimes it is greed. If we focus on what we do have (cup half full) rather than what we don’t have (cup half empty), we find true joy in Jesus as we know He walks with us in the good day and the bad.