Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thank You


“Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” I think as we gather this morning to begin this Thanksgiving Day, it is important for us to remember the roots of this holiday – after all the first Thanksgiving took place less than 200 miles from here. In 1623, Governor William Bradford of Massachusetts made the following proclamation for Thanksgiving:

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at the meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

This proclamation is all the more extraordinary when you know how destitute the circumstances were for the Pilgrims. Only 47 of the original 121 Pilgrims had survived the harsh winters, lack of food and disease. They had gone through a time of great difficulty; gotten to a point where many people would have quoted elsewhere in Scripture, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Instead, they never lost sight of their gratitude to God who is the source and giver of life. They knew that even their horrible experiences could never outweigh all that they had to be grateful for from God. And so they gathered and gave thanks.

We have all probably been in the position to have someone do something for us that was really special. We want to express our deep gratitude and yet we often find that the only thing we can do is say, “Thank you.” Even as we say it, those two words seem somehow inadequate to the task of expressing our deep thanks.

If we have ever felt that way about another person, I think most of us feel that way when we think of all God had done for us. We would like to express our gratitude to God, but we struggle with how to do it. What could we ever do to properly express our thanks for life? For Creation? The joy and love of our families and friends? For salvation? For the forgiveness of our sins? The grace of the Eucharist?

It boils down to this: The best way to show God we are grateful is to live our lives as He wants us to. As St. Paul said in our second reading, “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Showing our gratitude for God’s blessings means coming together and worshipping as a Church family. It means telling others of God’s love and all He has done for us. Have you told anyone what God has done for you lately?

We show our gratitude to God when we give nothing but our very best to the Lord – in terms of our time, our talent and our treasure. Do we give generously to those in need, to the Church, and in service to our brothers and sisters?

Being thankful means to live by faith, trusting in the Lord, being dependent on Him for all things.

Today is a day to give thanks. It is also a day to renew ourselves in gratitude, to outdo one another in gratitude and thankfulness. Our thankfulness is rooted in what God has done for us. He came to earth and made His way to the Cross where He suffered the agony of paying the penalty for all the sins of the world; the sins of you and me. He did this because He loved us. And because He loved us, we can have life, forgiveness of sin and Heaven. Nothing compares to what our God and our Savior did for us.

We are reminded today that we are called to cultivate gratefulness as our basic attitude toward life; as the very ground of our being. Gratefulness is extraordinarily powerful. It is one of the most powerful forces in the world. Gratefulness makes all the difference between going through the motions and really being alive.

“Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” No Lord, we your sons and daughters have returned and to you we say simply, profoundly, from the very depths of our hearts, “Thank You.”

May God give you peace.

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