"Sing to the Lord a new song…
Let the rivers clap their hands,
The mountains shout with joy."
So rings today’s Psalm, calling in us a response of jubilant gratitude.
A few years ago I was invited to an extraordinary luncheon in honor of a woman religious, Sr. Monica, visiting California from Nigeria. Before lunch, our small group stood in a circle and we invited Sr. Monica to lead us in grace. What happened next was a far cry from a "Bless us oh Lord for these our gifts." Instead, Sr. Monica led us in making the sign of the cross and then she broke into song, clapping her hands, singing gratitude for the goodness of our fellowship in Christ and the meal we were about to share. After she concluded her joyous, spontaneous song, we made the sign of the cross and began our meal. We all agreed that we loved her blessing which truly proclaimed (in her own wise words) how "Great and wonderful are all your works, Lord, mighty God!" Sister let out a most joyful laugh when she heard our reaction and said, "If we were home in Nigeria, there would have been dancing too!"
Our mood went from exuberant song to somber reflection as Sister then told us of her work in Nigeria. Sr. Monica has dedicated much of her religious life to working with young women who are victims of human trafficking. Incredibly, many girls are submitted to this lifestyle by family members; mothers, fathers, aunts or uncles. (Sound like today’s Gospel?) The innocent girls leave Nigeria thinking they are "going abroad to study." Sr. Monica lovingly supports these young women as they return to Nigeria-marked by the stigma of their past. Reconciling families and healing the hearts of the young women is her mission-in the name of Christ.
As we pray this Thanksgiving…let us do so in song. Let us make the sign of the cross. Then, let us clap our hands…and if we are bold and brave…let us dance. And, for the sake of those who suffer and are persecuted today, let us speak out with wisdom and compassion and take action to give witness to the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And, as always, let us conclude our Thanksgiving prayer with the sign of the cross…lest we forget!
Angela Howell is a retreatant and volunteer at Mater Dolorosa Passionists Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California.