Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Thank God even for our problems"

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  This is from the "archives," a Thanksgiving Day homily I delivered a few years ago.  I hope you enjoy it.


When you ask most people what they think about Thanksgiving they most often say family visits, big meals, football, and after Thanksgiving sales. Many families have an admirable custom of joining hands before the meal and going around the table and mentioning what we are thankful for. I think most of the time, people respond something like “I’m glad that we can all be here together” or “I’m glad that my children like their teachers this year” or “I’m thankful for my family, or my health,” or “This year the turkey is perfect.” And there’s nothing wrong with those. These are all admirable and wonderful things to give thanks for.

But, I’m also mindful today of a Thanksgiving homily I heard a number of years ago. It is one sentence long: “Thank God even for our problems.” This simple sentence is profound in its depth. We are usually very good at being thankful for all of the blessings in our lives – family, friends, prosperity, health, goodness, but there’s also much more in life to be thankful for.

The truth of that singular sentence – Thank God for our problems – lies largely in the fact that it is the problems of life – the challenges – that put demands on us to develop within us strengths previously unknown, leading to new understandings and appreciations of life that not only make the problem more bearable, but also make life richer. You see, the struggles of life, often help us to know more deeply who we truly are and how tremendously we are loved.

An example of this comes from a parishioner whose husband of more than 40 years died a while ago. I remember this women saying to me about a month afterward, “I had no idea I had so many friends. People have been so kind. The house has been crowded with neighbors offering help, the kitchen is full of food; messages have come from people I hardly know.” Through this experience, she found strength within herself as well as a new understanding of and appreciation for the people in her life and for life itself.

Now, I’m not suggesting that death and accidents, disappointment and frustrations, fears and anxieties, should be sought out for their growth potential. But, I am saying that these challenging experiences often teach us qualities that make living most worthwhile: sympathy, compassion, wisdom, patience, love, laughter, kindness and more. These lessons are good to remember in our world which seeks to rob us of the richness of life by eliminating all things that might be negative in any way. I think of an experience in my own families life when I was 10 years old. It was the late 70s, during the last oil crisis. My Dad, being a truck drive, had been out of work for two years. My family struggled terribly during this time. Mom was working double shifts as a nurse; we scrimped and saved and barely got by financially. In every worldly sense, this should be a time of great failure in the life of our family. But, it wasn’t. We all look back on that time as our Golden Years. Why? Because Dad was home and with the family all together, we don’t really recall the things we didn’t have, because we were so grateful for what we did have – each other. And, I don’t think any member of my family would trade that time for all the money in the world.

This is also the message of the Cross. We gather here today to thank God through this celebration of the ultimate Thanksgiving – the Eucharist. It is after all the center of our lives of faith. But, the Eucharist for which we are profoundly grateful, which changes us, makes us better people, is also intimately tied to the suffering of Christ on the cross. Through something as difficult as the Cross, we find nothing short of salvation – and for that we are grateful.

May this Thanksgiving be to you and your family a time of thanks for all God's manifold blessings – for all the good things, all the blessings – but especially for the light that has arisen out of darkness. Thank God for our problems.

We thank you, O God,
For the ability to do more, the more we do,
For the courage that comes out of failure,
For the knowledge that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.
Grant that we may show forth our thanks not only with our lips but also in our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving and may God give you peace.

1 comment:

  1. “Do not get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.”
    - Galatians 6:9

    Happy Thanksgiving Father...