Thanksgiving Day in the United States
Scriptural Readings: Sirach 50:22-24; Psalms 145:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11; 1Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19
My dear encountered couples:
“Was there no one to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?” Today, our country pauses to give thanks. A holiday from ordinary pursuits is called for in order for us to stand back and see the many blessings we have that make it possible for us to pursue anything at all. As I understand it, Thanksgiving Day was first celebrated by the early pilgrims to celebrate God’s goodness for the harvest they were given. And later established as a tradition to remind all of us at least one day out of the year how fortunate we are to have whatever we have. It is to make us realize whether we are grateful people, or whether we can be found among those who not only take everything for granted but demand much more. Our gospel reading speaks of both kinds of people.
Ten men were cured of leprosy by Jesus. It was like they were given back their lives. For anyone having leprosy was banned from their families and all of civilization to wander about in the desert, in the woods, in uninhabited areas - unloved and uncared for. But these ten were cured and the doors of life were miraculously reopened, admitting them to a world that no longer grimaced and shrank from them but welcomed them home with smiles and hugs. Only one of the ten thanked Jesus for his gift. And he wasn’t even a full-fledged Jew. He was a Samaritan, a foreigner. Do you suppose only one in ten people in our country are grateful today? And do you suppose those are the foreigners and refugees who have come here to live more safely and freely?
We all need to wake up, smell the flowers God gives us each and everyday, and thank him. To take for granted what we have, to even begin to think we are owed anything at all, to have the gall to demand more - that’s the height of narrowness, conceit, and selfishness. That’s what’s called “a person with a small mind.”
None of us did anything to deserve being created, to be given life as human beings. It was totally an act of God’s love. To continue to live and have anything besides life is to receive additional gifts. The world God created for us to live in is more than any of us needs to reasonably enjoy our existence. There may be people who do their best to make life miserable for us, or even try to deprive us of many things, but that is not God’s fault. He even sent his Son to rectify that situation, who arranged things so that whether we have it good in this world or not, we would have his guarantee that we will have it wonderful in the next.
But only grateful people enjoy what they have now. And only grateful people will enjoy any heaven in eternity. The ungrateful not only live in hell on earth, but will continue to do so later on. They really make their own hell and can’t seem to see beyond its walls. I wonder what ever happened to those ungrateful nine. I hope they eventually saw the light.
Whether you are a recent immigrant to this country or a descendent of immigrants, whether your family came here freely or was forced by slavery, whether you are a native American Indian treated justly or unjustly, or whether you are just visiting, like the Samaritan cured of leprosy turn your heart and mind to Jesus Christ, praise him and his Father. They never stop doing for you. May this Thanksgiving Day find your heart filled with gratitude.