I can’t believe it’s November already. For many, November is kind of a dull month, but for Catholics it is a time we observe three special days. The first is All Saints Day, when we’re reminded that we are all members of God’s family and called to become saints in our heavenly home. The Second, All Souls Day, reminds us of our loved ones who have gone before us “marked with a sign of faith.” At the end of the month, our nation celebrates Thanksgiving Day—a day set aside to count our blessings and a time to ask God to guide and bless our nation.
Thanksgiving Day is a dramatic reminder that America’s roots are religious. The people who first came to this land were intensely aware of God’s presence and God’s providence. Very few nations set aside a day when its people can just give thanks to a gracious God. Gratitude is so important as Christ himself discovered in the Gospel for Thanksgiving Day when only one out of ten lepers came back to thank him. This leper was doubly untouchable; he was not only a leper but a Samaritan who was hated and distrusted by the Jews among whom he lived. He was tolerated only by the nine others with whom he shared the terrible disease, and he alone returns to give thanks. Ten said please, but only one said thank you—and he throws himself at the feet of Jesus in gratitude.
There is a touch of sadness in the words of Jesus—“were not all ten made clean, where are the other nine?” This is the only place in the Gospel that we find Jesus insisting on the duty of gratitude. Most of us have a great deal to be thankful for. We live in a land flowing with milk and honey, but haven’t we felt a little strange of late when we turn on the TV and hear all kinds of bad news such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires? We realize on this Thanksgiving Day that all the catastrophes are no longer over there, they are here. I don’t think any of us have an immediate solution for the problems and natural disasters.
These situations might make us ask ourselves some questions—Is Thanksgiving a single, isolated day in the year, or do we never stop giving thanks for all the graces we have received through Jesus Christ? How do I treat other people? Are others around me starving for attention and affection, for just a smile or a touch? Sometimes I am self-centered, clannish and full of self-pity. What do people have to do to find hope and healing in me?
As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, let us remember those for whom we can only pray. Remember those who are closest to us and whose only experience of Christ may be our touch or our smile. Remember also that America’s roots are religious and that the founding fathers were intensely aware of God’s presence and God’s providence. The Puritans believed as their hymn tells us that God had blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love that is still ours today.