Thanksgiving Day (Year B)
First Reading: Sirach 50:22-24 Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 Gospel Reading: 17:11-19
“ LORD, I THANK YOU FOR YOUR FAITHFULNESS AND LOVE.”
Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn't make it.
Terrified, the one shouted to the other, "Put up a prayer, John. We're in for it!"
John answered, "I can't. I've never made a public prayer in my life."
"But you must!" implored his companion. "The bull is catching up to us."
"All right," panted John, "I'll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: 'O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.'"
Today is the 4th Thursday of the month of November, a national holiday, when we joyfully celebrate the “Thanksgiving Day” with customary 'turkey dinner.' The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. These bounties are so constantly enjoyed by us that we are prone to forget the source from which they come and are often insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. Today is the day kept aside to remember, in a special way, all God's gifts & blessings, which he has showered upon each one of us and to come to him and offer him our hearts laden with gratitude, and to fervently pray, saying - “Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness and love.”
All the three Scripture Readings of today and also the Responsorial Psalm are accordingly centered around the theme of 'thankfulness' and we all are called to be a people of thanksgiving. This means that we recognize that all that we have and all that we are is not so much our own doing, as it is a free and generous gift from the ever faithful and loving God.
Now, thankfulness is at the heart of salvation. And salvation has two parts - the first part, we can say, is gold and the second part is silver. The golden part, obviously the most precious is God's action, his initiative, which we sometimes call 'grace.' The First Reading from the Book of Sirach describes God's initiative on a natural level. The author invites us to "bless the God of all, who has done wondrous things on earth." Then he mentions that precious gift, the gift which makes all other gifts possible, the gift of life. He further says, "God fosters people's growth from their mother's womb, and fashions them according to his will!" God created the universe, and formation of a human being is the most marvelous part of the universe. God's initiative in bringing us into the world and calling us to a new birth is pure gold. That is the first and most important part of our salvation. There is a second part, the silver part. Even though it is not as precious as the first part, it is still necessary. The silver part of our salvation is our personal response. And we all have to respond to God with gratitude - "Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness and love."
The blessings of God are many and are in abundance. But the greatest gift God has given us is the gift of his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we obtain salvation and eternal life. In the Second Reading of today, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul focusses on the importance of giving thanks in our lives. First, we are privileged to give thanks for the way God has called us into a relationship with himself and with each other. Second, we are privileged to give thanks for five specific God-given gifts mentioned in the Reading, viz. 'grace, riches, spiritual gifts, forgiveness & faithfulness.' He reminds us to give thanks above for this - that the good God we serve is our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and everyone to come to the knowledge of the truth. "Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness and love."
In the Gospel Reading of today from St. Luke, we hear about Jesus cleansing the ten lepers. No story in all the Gospels so poignantly shows human ingratitude. Ten lepers came to Jesus with desperate longing and Jesus cured them. Out of the ten lepers cleansed of the deadly and socially incapacitating disease, only one of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. In astonishment and obvious hurt, Jesus asked – “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” And then he said to the grateful leper - “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Today we are called to model our lives after the leper who returned to give thanks. So, we say - "Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness and love."
Now, gratitude may seem obvious and easy, but it is not; for, it not only involves going out of our way, but it requires humility. This Gospel story of 'the forgetful lepers' - challenges us with how easy it is to fall into the ways of unbelief. We may not be physically suffering from leprosy; but our ingratitude to God and others is a sign of our spiritual leprosy. Unfortunately, the problem of ungratefulness, our spiritual leprosy , is universal. One of the first things we teach our children is to say 'Please' & 'Thank you,' yet we ourselves who are God's children, forget to say 'Thank You, my Lord' to God. It is sad that to our hurt and the disappointment of God, many of us travel through life without a thankful heart toward God and others.
The way of faith, instead, is to ever return, glorifying him for what he has given, and we will find that he always has even more to give, and that leads to more thanksgiving from us. The grateful leper when he realized that he was cured, returned to Jesus and Jesus gave him more, viz. salvation - “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” Jesus wants thankfulness to be an endless cycle and the very joy of our life. He wants finally to give us nothing less than Himself. That's why he keeps asking - “Where are the other nine?”
What we need then is a 'Copernican Revolution' in our way of thinking. Copernicus was the Polish astronomer who posited that the sun does not make a circle around the earth, but that the earth revolves around the sun. Our lack of gratitude comes when we think that things revolve around us; we can even view God as one more object out there orbiting us. We need to recognize the truth that God is the center and everything we have comes from him. When we do that, our stance is simple gratitude.
Today, as we celebrate “Thanksgiving Day,” let us remember that it is not a day's affair, to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November. Actually, for a believer – everyday is to be a thanksgiving day. It is to be a way of life for a child of God. It should never be for us 'once in a year matter,' but a daily sending of our thanks to God, out of a heart full of gratitude - for God, who is the source of all goodness that ever comes our way, loves us so much that he keeps holding out his hand and showering us with gifts and blessing each and every day.
In order to be thankful, must we be reminded, what to say, every time God gives us those things for which we pray? No! we shouldn't have to be told to say, 'Thank you!' It should come naturally, as an echo when we're given something great. Thanks should be like the shadow, which cannot be separated from the gifts and blessings we receive from God or others. Thanks should always grow like flowers when showered from above and they should always flow like kisses which follow upon love.
Moreover, 'thankfulness' is more than a mere word. Actually, it is a positive mental attitude, focused on God and grateful for all the benefits that are ours as believers. It is a lifestyle rooted in the disposition of our hearts! Someone has said, 'Thanksgiving is good but thanks-living is better.' So we say - "Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness and love."
Finally, we should remember that “Thanksgiving Day” is the most unique among our feasts & holidays, also in many ways the most religious, not because it is about 'Turkeys,' but because it is about 'Thanksgiving.' We call ourselves a 'Eucharistic People.' Do we know what that means? “Eucharist” is a Greek word, which means “thanksgiving.” So, we are a 'Thanksgiving People,' and the main thing for which we come around the table of the Lord is to offer thanksgiving sacrifice to God, our Father, at the Eucharist.
So, during this Eucharistic celebration let us pray that we shall always be thankful to God for all his gifts and blessings, which he, each and everyday, so lovingly and graciously showers upon each one of us. God is always faithful. Great is his love. Amazing is his grace. And we pray fervently, saying - “LORD, I THANK YOU FOR YOUR FAITHFULNESS AND LOVE.”
Wish you all a beautiful Thanksgiving Day!