Thanksgiving Day (USA)
Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9
During the first winter in New England, the English Calvinist settlers of Massachusetts lost half their community to cold and starvation. In the Spring, they were aided by the Pawtuxet Indians. Because of the generosity of the Pawtuxet Indians, William Bradford in the Fall of 1621, announced a three day festival of thanksgiving in gratitude to their benefactors.
In 1798 President George Washington proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving. It was celebrated on different days by different states. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November the official day of Thanksgiving for the nation.
The Puritans of Massachusetts Colony believed they were a remnant of God’s chosen people, sent into the wilderness to find a New Jerusalem, "The city on the Hill." Today we still hope and pray that this dream be realized and true.
Today we give thanks for our experience of all God’s gifts and we are moved to say: Thanks Be to God!"
Like the Puritans we have survived the bitter harshness of winters. Winters of conflict, of recessions, and the winters of the spirit as much as of the years. We have experienced the love and understanding of people and also the incorrigibility of people from whom we have hoped for love and understanding. We have tasted of health and life as well as of illness and death. God’s promise of faithful presence has sustained us. God’s presence has been present to us in our springs and summers as well as in our winters.
So we come to this day of Thanksgiving to remember again God Incarnate, whose fidelity to us is a redeeming presence. We pray for Springs of promise, Summers of growth, and a Falls of fruitful harvest.
Gratitude and thanksgiving are both signs of self-transcendence in response to life that is gift. Fundamental to both is the mature realization of our relationship with God Whose gift is life itself.
Today’s Gospel is a source of hope. Jesus tells us to choose life since we are made in the Image of god. We are reminded like the pilgrims it is by our endurance we will gain our souls. If we do this, if we stand up and raise our heads – we will find our redemption which is near at hand. It is because of this God’s promises and fidelity that we give Thanks today.
Fr. Kenneth O’Malley, C.P. is the archivist at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.