This is the time of year we’re called on to give thanks for the blessings that have come our way.
Some of us may be fortunate enough to count a loving family, good friends, good health and a fulfilling job as blessings. Others may count just one or two, or none of the above, but still may have something for which to be grateful. What we all have in common, though, is recognition that we’re living in a tumultuous time and can easily lose sight of anything that brings us gratitude.
Thanksgiving is upon us, which is itself is a blessing—even if we don’t immediately recognize it as such—because it gives us “permission” to pause, to take stock and refuel.
As Greg Erlandson, one of our colleagues at Catholic News Service, wrote in a beautifully crafted column for the holiday, “Thanksgiving couldn’t (have) come at a better time this year….because gratitude is the one inexhaustible natural resource we seem to have a shortage of these days.”
As he put it, “Our political system is inflamed with hostility and resentments. Our Church is riddled with scandal, division and distrust. The planet is warming to a dangerous level.”
We’ll add that even our Yankees, who entered the postseason with the third-best record in baseball, were not able to make it to the World Series.
“We’ve got a lot on our minds, and most of it is bad,” Erlandson wrote.
“Times like these try our souls, threatening to turn us into fuming hashtags on social media, honking at strangers on public streets and unfriending friends digitally or otherwise.
“We are dispirited, as if some sort of unhappiness virus has been unleashed on us. Our economy is on a sugar high from all the tax cuts and booming. Yet pollsters tell us we remain darkly worried about our country’s future.
“We aren’t grateful. We are fearful. Fearful of a ragtag band of people walking north in the hopes of finding the American dream. Fearful of those who don’t look like us. Fearful of those who do look like us but who harbor terrible hatreds, even violence, in their hearts.
“And all this happening in the richest, most powerful, most materially blessed nation in the history of the world.”
So where, you might ask, will our Thanksgiving spirit come from?
We can start with the Thanksgiving feast itself, a meal that “embodies the abundance of our land,” as Erlandson put it. It’s a meal that is meant to be shared with loved ones around our table, or served to those who are vulnerable or alone by generous volunteers at soup kitchens and other facilities run by agencies like Catholic Charities.
We can be grateful for our country, for the rights and opportunities we enjoy, and we can pledge to be among those who try to replace discord and distrust with healing and respect.
We can be grateful for our beleaguered Church, remembering that it has served as our channel to the Lord and that many dedicated priests, nuns and lay faithful have guided us on our journey.
We can be grateful, too, for the coming of Advent as we prepare to celebrate the incarnation of our Lord.