As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God”. In modern times the President of the United States, in addition to issuing a proclamation, will “pardon” a turkey, which spares the bird’s life and ensures that it will spend the duration of its life roaming freely on farmland. On December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday.
As a nation, we would stop to give thanks for blessings. Stopping and thanking…this is a dynamic force for wholeness. The leper stopped and recognized a gift he didn’t deserve…he had to turn around! Lk. 17:11-19
A grateful person is one who sees everything as a gift, not something deserved. By turning around and falling to Jesus’ feet thanking him…Jesus said your faith has saved you. It’s full circle…Stopping…thanking…it’s a challenge especially today when so much is on our plates!! We need time! So we try to create more by hurrying…
“What was the pastor’s most profound regret in life? They carry the wooden box across the graveyard. It’s the weight of regrets that weighs a coffin down. And I hear the answer of the pastor ring. Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing…. Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away. In our rushing, bulls in china shops, we break our own lives. Haste makes waste.” (One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp)
This running without really stopping to give thanks…creates hearts that are troubled. We begin to think according to the scarcity mentality…I’m lacking something! This sin in Adam and Eve was destructive turning God into an adversary. Ungrateful hearts are never satisfied and always search for the next fix for their cravings. This creates within our hearts an interior wasteland. We are neither here nor there…always running… “It’s the in between that drives us mad. It’s the life in between, the days of walking lifeless, the years calloused and simply going through the hollow motions, the self-protecting by self-distracting, the body never waking, that’s lost all capacity to fully feel—this is the life in between that makes us the wild walking dead.” (One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp)
We aren’t dead, but are sons of the resurrection in Christ Jesus. That same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us (Rom. 8:11) Do not quench the Spirit! (1Thes 5:19) How not to quench the Spirit? Recognize the gift! Paul learned this from the example and words of Jesus: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1Thes 5: 16-18)
For Jesus, gratitude preceded miracles: Jn 6:11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
- Jn 11: 41 “So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father,*I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice,* “Lazarus, come out!”
- Jn 6:23 Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks. Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks.
His heart, moved by pity and gratitude for the gift of the people, multiplied the loaves. We, the gift of the Father to the Son…Jesus pours out his thankful love in a complete gift of self-giving. Jn 17:24 Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am* they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
This act of self-giving, to be re-presented until the end of time: The EUCHARIST. The gift of gifts! Jesus so grateful for the gift of giving his life freely, no one takes it away…wanting to give and give himself for us. This is an eternal force of gratitude! It’s a gratitude that expresses in his desire that we be with him…
Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am* they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. Jn 17:24
On the cross, his throne of love is where he wants us to be and conqueror evil with love. He empowers us to transform our sufferings into sacrifices, sacred offerings. He didn’t give his life reluctantly; he gave it freely; no one took it from him. He gave it joyfully.
The root word in Eucharist is Cara, which means joy! Thanksgiving without joy is an impossibility. It is a joy that is Christ’s gift to us. “Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.” (One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp)
Spending time before the Eucharist molds our hearts into grateful joy-filled hearts which embrace the cross. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 1Cor 10:16
Understanding this frees us. Circumstances no longer pull us in all directions, but are a single force for joy and gratitude as Paul told the Philippians 4:11-13, “Not that I say this because of need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me”