Holidays can be hard times for people who are in poor health, homeless or who are experiencing emotional or financial difficulties. Especially during this unprecedented time of pandemic, many people, cut off from family and friends, will be struggling to celebrate their blessings this year. Let’s be sure to pray for those who are less fortunate than we are and help them every way we can.
The encyclopedia tells us that Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, not a religious holy day. That’s technically true, but for those of us who are believers, it is impossible to express gratitude “in general.” Our thanks go to the God who created us and who sustains us by his grace. We Christians believe that this God is a person who knows us individually and who cares about each one of us. When we give thanks to him, it is a very intimate and personal thing.
Until our churches were closed by the pandemic, most Catholics in the United States were able to celebrate the holy Eucharist (whose name comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving) every Sunday. But what some are calling The Great Eucharistic Fast of 2020 has served to remind us what a precious gift the Eucharist truly is. The ability to receive the Body and Blood of Christ and to become one with him as members of his body the church, is a gift that we must never take for granted. Our only appropriate response to the Lord’s gift of himself to us is a heartfelt “Thank you” to our good and gracious God.
On Thanksgiving Day, we give special thanks to God for all his abundant blessings. That includes the gift of life itself, our parents and families, the love that we share with spouses and children, our friends, our freedom as Americans, our vocations as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, our material possessions, our intellectual gifts and talents and much, much more.
This year, we should add to our gratitude list all who have supported and encouraged us during the difficult days of COVID-19 including family and friends, healthcare workers, retail merchants and all service personnel who put themselves in harm’s way to provide for our basic needs. We should also be grateful for the leaders in our society and our church, who have worked so hard to adapt to the challenges of our time and to provide for our spiritual and material necessities.
Gratitude is a powerful virtue. It opens our hearts to the healing power of God’s grace. It helps us look beyond our own selfish wants and fears to the gifts we receive from others and to the opportunities we have to share with others and to return thanks to God for all that he has generously given to us. Giving thanks is one of the most effective means we have of maintaining a balanced perspective in times of adversity. It helps prevent us from sinking into depression and despair by reminding us of all the goodness we have received from those who love and care for us — in good times and in hard times.
If God can watch over us, and forgive us, in spite of our selfishness and sin, shouldn’t we be able to do the same? Shouldn’t we have the faith and the courage to forgive ourselves by looking beyond our own needs, wants and fears to the gifts we have received from God and from so many others?
If we are able to go to Mass this Thanksgiving (in person or live-streamed), we should say a special word of thanks to God for all his blessings. We should offer a prayer of thanksgiving for all the people in our lives who have shared their gifts with us, especially during this time of hardship.