Thanksgiving is at the core of our Judeo/Christian tradition. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and His mercy endures forever,” (Psalm 106) is probably the most repeated phrase in the Hebrew Scriptures. It acknowledges our dependence on God and His abundant love and mercy, but it also recognizes our need to share our abundance with others. To use John Donne’s metaphorical images, we are not islands but part of a continent, a piece of a whole. We are the Body of Christ.
Harvest festivals are found in many cultures offering thanks for abundant crops. Pentecost (Jewish Festival of Shavuoth) was such a celebration of Thanksgiving as was the Pilgrim’s celebration in 1621 that has been identified as the first Thanksgiving in North America.
For us today, Thanksgiving has little to do with a harvest festival, although we still use the harvest symbols of pumpkins and gourds, but we are celebrating God’s abundance in our lives. We celebrate faith, hope, life itself, and gifts that sustain us.
We celebrate family, the sacrifices of our parents, the love shared with spouses, brothers and sisters and the gift of friendship. It is in the loving relationship with family and friends that God’s love is frequently revealed to us. We become acutely aware of these gifts on Thanksgiving even though our friends and family may be far away or at home with God.
An important part of Thanksgiving is sharing our abundance, not only with friends and family, but with those less fortunate than ourselves. Donate food or money to a food bank, make a gift to Catholic Charities or volunteer to help serve a Thanksgiving meal to the homeless. The greatest gift we have to share is ourselves.
Let us join together this Thanksgiving to: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever.”