Thanksgiving 2012


I am sure that you notice that in recent years, people have begun to call Thanksgiving by another name: Turkey Day. On other holidays like Columbus Day, George Washington's Birthday, and Memorial Day, we pay our respects to those we are remembering, but on how easy we change the names of other holidays such Thanksgiving and Christmas![1]

There's a reason—a disturbing reason—for the name change. When people sit down before the table on Thanksgiving Day, they still sense that they must bow their heads and give thanks. Let's be very honest: we live in a society that sometimes wants to take God out. So, some are trying to discard the name Thanksgiving and to forsake the traditions on this holiday which kept God at the center.

Why are so many ungrateful to God for His blessings? Well, the fundamental reason is that we are too prosperous. After the exodus from Egypt, God told the people of Israel that He was leading them to a great land. It would be a land overflowing with milk and honey. So, after occupying their new country, they could expect a life of prosperity. But God warned them that with prosperity would come the danger of forgetting God. They would be tempted to look around at their wealth and say to themselves, "By our hands, by our labor, we have achieved this; we have built a good life for ourselves." They would take credit for what God had given them…

Well, the same mentality exists in America today. We enjoy prosperity, and yet we fail to recognize that its source is God. Why? We take our wealth for granted. We feel we deserve it. We imagine that we created it. It is a funny thing about human beings that we are more thankful when we are suffering poverty than when they are enjoying plenty. In Little House in the Big Woods, the author describes how new pioneers living on the edge of subsistence celebrated Christmas. Each of the older children received exactly two presents (a pair of mittens and a piece of candy), and in addition one of the younger children received a home-made rag doll. Were the children unhappy and ungrateful because their gifts were so meager? On the contrary, the author concludes her reminiscences by saying, "What a happy Christmas it had been!"[2].

Perhaps you say, "Others may have the problem of being too rich, but not me. I'm not rich." Because we know people who have bigger houses and cars than we have, most of us feel that we are just average folks. In relation to all the people living in past generations, in relation to the vast majority of people around the world today we are amazingly wealthy. Think of it. What are you lacking that you could reasonably want? We have more clothing in our closet than many of our ancestors possessed in a whole lifetime. Our houses and gardens would, in past generations, have set us just below the highest nobility… Too often I think of my brother priests in other countries without the economic resources that I have, and they do not complain. They work much, much more.

Although prosperity is a blessing from God, it is, as we have said, a danger also. It can have a disturbing effect on our love for God and on our gratitude for His blessings. What is the remedy? Should we give away our goods and take a vow of poverty? That might work. But it might not. With poverty might come bitterness rather than gratitude. I think God prefers that we take the following, more practical, measures to guard our spiritual health in the midst of material wealth.

Let's give thanks this morning (night) for what we have, but mostly always ask to have a grateful heart, a heart that is more attentive to the spiritual than material. On Sunday we said that the most important is the salvation of our souls. Today I ask God for this favor in the Eucharist ■


[1] Readings: Sirach 50:22-24, Psalm 138:1-5, 1 Corinthians 1:3-9, Luke 17:11-19
[2] Little House in the Big Woods is a children's novel by Laura Ingalls Wilder published in 1932. The book is the first in the Little House series, which is based on decades-old memories of Wilder's early childhood in the Big Woods near Pepin, Wisconsin, in the late 19th century.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris