” If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you’ that will suffice.”Meister Eckhart
My social media has overflowed with memes about the year 2020 and just how awful it has been and how eager we are to get to the end of it. I enjoy the memes and laugh because there is an element of truth to them. It is not okay in our world and, like you, I want things to get better. And many of us are simply grateful that we have survived.
Tomorrow we celebrate our national holiday, Thanksgiving, a day to give thanks throughout our nation. We are taught that this holiday is based on the written eye witness account of Edward Winslow, a colonist. He wrote a letter about the harvest celebration of November of 1621. After struggle and tragedy, during which many men and most of the women died, a successful harvest was worth celebrating. Native people in the neighborhood are said to have joined the celebration.
Thanksgiving Day has often occurred in the midst of suffering or struggle. We dare to be grateful for overcoming the brokenness of this world. Paul writes in his letter to the Thessalonians (5:18) “Give thanks for everything — for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” No matter what this broken world has handed out to us in the past and how uncertain is our future, give thanks.
In the same way that a psalm of praise (103) can follow immediately after a psalm of distress (102) in our scriptures, we find that thanksgiving exists in the midst of struggle. We are a people who face into our struggles with courage and gratitude because we believe in a living God of compassion who is on our side. In the end we know that all will be well.
As followers of Christ Jesus we are accustomed to giving thanks. We meet at least once a week for Eucharist, and the meaning of this Greek word (Euchoristeo) is thanksgiving. We remember that Jesus gave thanks even as he was preparing for struggle and death. He took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, “Take this and eat it for this is my body which will be given up for you.” We Catholics are sensitive to an expression of thanksgiving within a Eucharist where we continue to celebrate that Christ is being given to our world — through us — for we are the Body of Christ, we are the bread that is broken and given.
If we could listen in on thousands of thanksgiving prayers tomorrow, I suspect we would hear prayers that avoid any mention of the suffering and death that fills our world these days. However, feel free to acknowledge the injustice, the suffering, and the losses we have experienced, and still praise and thank God. We thank God not for evil and suffering. We thank God trusting, remembering, that out of losses, out of suffering, even out of destruction God is able to, and God assuredly will, create new life, a new community, a Beloved Community where suffering and death will be overcome.
As I end this brief message on Thanksgiving I’d like to share a quote from the editorial page of The Seattle Times titled A Thanksgiving full of blessings: “But on this unusually quiet Thanksgiving, it’s worth reflecting on all we’ve learned and done that will be the foundation of future successes. We’ve been tested. We’re surviving. We’re on the verge of something more.” (Read the whole article HERE.)
My beloved ones, may your Thanksgiving Day tomorrow be lovely and meaningful, even if quiet.