Today our nation carries on a tradition that goes back at least to the time of Abraham Lincoln — setting aside a Thursday late in November as a national day of prayer and thanksgiving. We are reminded of our origins as Americans, and of the pilgrims who came to this land searching for freedom — freedom of religion and freedom of expression. We thank God for our heritage, but we must reflect on how we have carried on our forebears’ traditions of tolerance and freedom.
It is a time to call to mind the ideals of our country, why we were founded as a people and how we are living up to what we have been given as a sacred trust, a responsibility to share our goods and the bounty of our land.
While we can certainly be thankful for the blessings we have received this year, we need to find the source of Thanksgiving, the reason for our joy. St. Paul reminds us, “Always be thankful.”(Col 3:17). It is good that we give thanks for our freedom of self-determination, coupled with a strong sense of personal dignity and responsibility. It is good that we give thanks for the great bounty that is produced by hard work and God’s grace. But, unfortunately, in recent years we have had a tendency to forget these things.
We Americans are quite remarkable in the way we travel thousands of miles to be home for Thanksgiving. The nation more or less shuts down so people can share a great meal together. We must make Thanksgiving a day for thanking God and not just another holiday with a totally secular bias.
President Thomas Jefferson said that a government was not in the position to grant that which God had already allowed. Only God can give and take away religious expression, not the government. As a nation, under God, we were guided and empowered by a higher authority. Our freedom is not for trivialization or personal benefit but rather a call to greatness to do God’s will and claim God’s vision.
We give thanks today for all of God’s blessings and his many gifts, and pray for those who have little. We are given much and much is expected. God calls us, feeds us, clothes us, and blesses us, with the intent purpose that we will extend that blessing by our own graciousness and generosity.
Let us remember this day of Thanksgiving is truly about thanks-giving, not thanks-receiving.