Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

The first Thanksgiving was a harvest feast the Pilgrims of the Plymouth Rock Community shared with Native Americans to thank God for their survival of their first year in the New World. President Abraham Lincoln declared this a national holiday in 1863 to give thanks for the Union Army’s victory at Gettysburg that changed the course of our Civil War. In 1939, at the end of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved this holiday to the third week of November to help merchants with extra shopping days before Christmas, an act of thanks for our nation’s survival of the Depression’s crushing poverty. The next year, at the insistence of Congress, he moved it permanently to the fourth Thursday in November to affirm that this holiday was an expression of thanks to God for the survival of our nation at its beginning, a war-changing victory, and many other blessings public and private. Thanksgiving is truly a moveable and moving feast of gratitude.

I have attended many veterans’ funerals with Military Honors. I am always impressed when our flag is given to a surviving spouse and children, and the presenter says: “On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and
faithful service.” Thanksgiving is at the heart of our nation’s identity and purpose. The grateful heart of our nation is the foundation of our country’s greatness. When our hearts are hardened and lack gratitude, we fall short of the greatness that is ours. This Thanksgiving when you think of the things for which you are grateful, make the commitment to live with gratitude every day and discover the greatness of God that is ours in Christ.

Every time we celebrate mass we give thanks to God who revealed the depth of his love for us in the life, death, and resurrection of his son, Jesus. When we receive the Eucharist (literally the ultimate thanksgiving) we enter into a covenant to live grateful lives in memory of Jesus.

Sunday’s gospel parable teaches us that we are not called to live in fear but in gratitude. The two servants who increased their master’s investment were grateful for the opportunity and successful in their endeavors. The fearful cautious servant squandered an opportunity and failed to fulfill his master’s wishes. Fulfilling our Eucharistic commitment to gratitude is a witness to the power of God’s love in our lives.

Once a young man told me of some of his rather sketchy behavior; he asked me if I thought God would “get him for it.” I assured him that God would indeed “get him,” but not in the way he expected. I explained that God wants to get us all to heaven, not to trick and catch us so that we don’t get there. The cost of our trip to heaven is the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God is willing to pay the price. We can be grateful for the opportunity to make the journey.

Be safe on your Thanksgiving journeys. Remember the things for which you are grateful, and bring the gratitude of your heart to the world every day. Happy Thanksgiving!

May God’s Peace be Yours,
Msgr. Jay