20 Nov 2021

This Week Letter – November 21, 2021

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From Fr. Brendan’s Desk                             November 21, 2021

With Grateful Hearts

This week, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving, the American festival commemorating the harvest and giving thanks with family and friends. It is a wonderful and blessed time for many of us. Hopefully, as individuals and as a society, we can remember the reason that we celebrate Thanksgiving, namely, in order to give thanks. In some ways, Thanksgiving goes against the grain of our culture. On Thanksgiving, we stop our day-to-day work in order to gather to share a meal and to give thanks for the blessings that we have. Sadly, all too often, we see our culture of consumerism and a need to always be active creep into this day. We see stores beginning their “Black Friday” sales on Thanksgiving night and more and more employers expecting their workers to at least do some remote work. Obviously some people will always need to work on Thanksgiving. My mother and my brother work in the health care fields and one of my cousins is in the Air Force. I’m very familiar with people having to work on holidays.

However, it is important to remember the purpose of a holiday. The purpose is to stop our day-to-day tasks in order to reflect on what is really important in life. The purpose of Thanksgiving is for us to pause our work so that we can recall the many gifts that we have and give thanks for them. But that’s not something that we should only do on one Thursday in November. Rather, each and every day can be a Thanksgiving Day. We can, each day, pause for a few moments and give thanks for the blessings that we have. In fact, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we ought to spend a few minutes every day thanking God for the many gifts that he has given to us. That is something that has been a part of my prayer life since I was a child. At the end of each day, before going to sleep, I make sure to thank God for three blessings that I have received from him. If I initially can only think of two, I remain in prayer until I have given thanks for four things. If I can only think of one, I make sure to find five gifts for which to give thanks. It’s a way for me to see where God has been active in my life that day and to remind me that everything that I have is a gift from him.

Giving thanks is part of our prayer and I worry that it’s often one that is easy to neglect. Often times, we think of prayer as asking God for various needs. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. In fact, it’s a good thing to do, as it teaches us to be humble. But it’s also important to recognize the many gifts that God has already given to us. We need to recognize the many ways in which God is already at work in our lives. They can be as simple as giving thanks that we have a roof over our head or a good conversation with a friend to thanking him for miraculous intervention in our lives. But it is important that we give thanks daily.

We can also give thanks by receiving the Eucharist. Indeed, the very word Eucharist means giving thanks. We use the word Eucharist because Jesus blessed the bread and wine, giving thanks and gave it to his disciples at the last supper. Not only do we give thanks for the food that nourishes our bodies, we also give thanks to God for feeding and transforming our souls when we approach the Eucharistic celebration. Let us take time, each and every day, to make our lives an act of Thanksgiving. Meister Eckhart once wrote, “If the only prayer we were to say in our lives is ‘Thank you,’ that would suffice.”