Thanksgiving Homily, 2001

This homily was given on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, 2001, at St. Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington. Thanksgiving Day — 2001! We gather here in this Cathedral Church and later in our homes, with relatives and friends, to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives — each one of them a sign of God’s loving care and faithful goodness. This year, though, our Thanksgiving Day is being celebrated within a context vastly different from what we have previously experienced. The memory and aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as well as the continuing conflict in Afghanistan and the anthrax threat remain with us even as we gather to give thanks. Some might even question why we are giving thanks. In today’s The Washington Post, an article reflected the struggle some people are experiencing on this traditional day of giving thanks. There is no doubt that anyone who has lost a family member or friend within the past year feels that loss on a day when family members and friends gather together precisely to be with each other. Certainly, the pain of loss is heightened when the loved one has died as a result of terrorism or violence. Surely, our hearts go out to all those who are experiencing grief and loss, especially this year. Christian faith does not take away sadness nor pain, but it allows us to see beyond these, to cope with these, because of the deeply-seated hope that Christ’s victory over sin and death will also be ours in the end. So, even in the midst of human loss and painful grief, we give thanks to God for the ability He gives us to go on, to cope, to persevere, with our eyes fixed on Jesus. We give thanks to the Father for sending His Son to be Our Lord and Saviour by His dying and rising, for making us members through Baptism of the Church Christ founded and for the constant assistance of the Holy Spirit, who equips us to witness and to persevere through His seven gifts given at Confirmation. We give thanks for the Eucharist, both Sacrifice and Sacrament, because we are strengthened by this heavenly food and drink — the Real Presence of Jesus within us — to walk by faith even through the dark valley. We give thanks for God’s mercy made tangible in a special way every time we celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Yes, even in the midst of unbelievable sorrow and loss, through our tears and despite the ache in our hearts, we give thanks to God, the source of all blessings. Our faith also helps us to assent to what the scriptures testify: that God can bring good out of evil. Since Sept. 11, so many people have come to re-examine their priorities. They — we — have realized that what matters most is our relationships — with God and with each other, especially with our family. Is not this new awareness a blessing for which we give thanks to God, the source of all blessings? In the weeks following Sept. 11, many people have returned to a more regular and faithful practice of their faith. Realizing that our relationship with God is essential — a priority, many have begun to express this relationship through daily prayer at home and in the celebration of the Eucharist weekly on Saturday evening or Sunday. Many have begun to integrate more consciously their faith-life with daily life. Is not this re-discovered integration of faith and life a blessing for which we give thanks to God, the Source of all blessings? Yes, we do have so many blessings for which to give thanks: our family and friends; this great nation; the many people who make our life more secure, like the members of the armed forces, the police and firefighters; our health and those who assist when we are ill. Yes, so many people are blessings to us! And, above all, our Catholic faith is the greatest of all blessings! We echo the first reading: "The favors of the Lord I will recall…. He has favored us according to his mercy and his great kindness." This Thanksgiving Day is different, yet it can and must be a day of genuinely giving thanks to God for so many blessings, even in the midst of terrorism, violence, death and fear. We return home, sent there with the same instruction Jesus gave the man in today’s Gospel: "Go home to your family and make it clear to them how much the Lord in His mercy has done for you." Yes, when we leave this Cathedral and return home, there we must live out all those virtues outlined by St. Paul in today’s second reading. There we must live with grateful hearts. Our God goes with us — the Good Shepherd. For His Presence and for each other, we give thanks to God, the Source of all blessings, today and every day. Amen.

Copyright ?2001 Arlington Catholic Herald.  All rights reserved.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2001