This week we celebrate the great American holiday of Thanksgiving, so my bulletin column today will be about the sin of gluttony.
Just kidding, it’s not about gluttony (although we should always practice moderation in all things, especially around the table!). Rather, let’s talk about giving thanks!
A few years ago, a man named John Kralik was depressed. He had every reason to be – at 53, his life was falling apart. He had just gone through his second divorce, he was alienated from his children, he was forty pounds overweight, lonely, poor, and realizing that he would never achieve his career dreams. His depression was so dark that he considered suicide. On a cold December day, he took a walk to sort things out, and came to a profound insight – instead of focusing on the things he didn’t have, why not focus on the things he did?
That month, he made a New Year’s Resolution to write one thank you note every day of the year – 365 in all. And day by day, month by month, he started to do so – to family and friends, coworkers and mailmen, neighbors and shopkeepers. Pretty soon, he found that his life was changed by gratitude. He started to have a more positive outlook on life, and with that came a myriad of changes. True friendships started to develop in his life; he lost weight and felt better; and most importantly, he found inner peace. All because of gratitude!
I personally keep a gratitude journal. Every night before bed I write down a few sentences of what I am grateful for that day. It amazes me when I look over my day how many little blessings I easily overlook – a good conversation with a friend, a powerful ministry moment when I saw Jesus working in someone’s life, the chance to rest and recreate, intimacy with God in prayer, or even the simple blessings of knowing that I don’t have to worry about my next meal or where I will live. Since I started doing this, I’ve noticed much more of the little things in life – encounters that, previously, I would have overlooked; challenges that end up being blessings — because little things become things to be grateful for!
And thus we come to another Thanksgiving holiday. My Uncle Mike used to have us all list something we were grateful for before we dug into the turkey; I used to think it was such a cringey thing to do – awkward to the max! Now I see the wisdom behind it. We do not know what we have until we are grateful for it.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that is unabashedly Christian – because who are we thanking, if not God? Listen to the words of George Washington, who instituted Thanksgiving in 1789:
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor: Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks — for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies.
Ultimately, our faith is centered around thanksgiving. The word in Greek for “giving thanks” is eucharistia – from which we get “Eucharist”. Every Mass is awestruck gratitude for the phenomenal gift of Life that Jesus Christ purchased on the Cross for us. We can never adequately repay God for humbling Himself, shedding His perfect Blood on the Cross, and inviting us into a relationship of grace. The Eucharist is a small way in which we repay Him – and in giving Him thanks, He gives us back His Flesh and Blood! What a marvelous exchange! We try to thank Him, and He only gives us more blessings – more of Himself – in return!
So this Thanksgiving, amidst the turkey and the football and the pumpkin pie, we must always remember the real reason for the holiday – not just to gather with family and friends, but ultimately to give thanks to Him from whom all blessings come.
(And don’t be a glutton!)