NGUYEN: Thanksgiving every day
November 23, 2021
Finally… the best Autumn holiday is here: Thanksgiving! For Americans, Thanksgiving is an extra special day — families gather for a feast with a turkey, a myriad of sides and scrumptious desserts. My mouth is already watering. Is yours?
Of course, Thanksgiving is more than just family and food. The word itself means “giving thanks.” For this reason, most families have added a custom of surrounding the Thanksgiving dinner table with joined hands and bowed heads to offer words of thanks to God.
If family, food and grateful hearts are all that we need at Thanksgiving, then the idea of having Thanksgiving every day is feasible, for “it is the will of God in Jesus Christ that we are to give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess 5:15-18).
Thanksgiving is definitely a religious holiday. Remember that the reason for the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims was solely to give thanks to God for their survival and harvests.
As Catholics, we know so well the word Thanksgiving, which is Eucharist (eukaristos in Greek). At every celebration of the Eucharist, or the Holy Mass, we give thanks to God the Father for His gift of creation (eulogia in Greek) and the gift of revelation, the covenant and God’s saving works (eucharistia in Greek). These moments of praise can be found in the Preface, right before the Eucharistic Prayer.
Attending Mass is the highest form of giving thanks to God for all His blessings and gifts. Coming to Mass is like coming home, to God’s family, where we all belong. As one big family of God, we gather around the Banquet of the Lord, give thanks to our Almighty Father, and are spiritually fed by the Eucharist, Jesus Himself. After all, Thanksgiving is all about relationships — with God and with others.
God’s gifts to humankind are immeasurable; above all is the gift of salvation. God’s unconditional love shown through Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection says it all. In the Eucharist, Jesus gives His total self to us as food for our souls. You might say, “Yes, I know God loves me; He sends His Son, Jesus, to die for my sins.” If this truth only stays in your head and has not yet come down to your heart, then I suggest you read the prologue of Matthew Kelly’s book, “Rediscover Catholicism.”
I still vividly remember the first time I read this book; I literally broke down in tears. It was the first time I truly encountered God’s love for all of humankind. I experienced a true vision of God. Indeed, that Theophany has helped me a great deal in my spiritual life. Without a doubt, I believe that the love of God for all of us is real.
Do you remember the story in all four Gospels about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-15)? Have you noticed what situation Jesus was in? The disciples thought it was hopeless to feed the huge crowd with their limited food. Then what did Jesus do? Jesus took what was available — five loaves of bread and two fishes, raised his eyes to heaven and gave thanks to God the Father.
This Scriptural narrative ends with a miracle that we all recall. Jesus trusted His Father. We, too, will witness miracles in our daily lives if we learn to place our total trust in God, who is our heavenly Father and who will provide all our needs physical, emotional and spiritual. Practicing embracing whatever situations we find ourselves in, having total trust in God, and giving thanks, miracles will happen.
This year, as we celebrate the great American holiday, Thanksgiving, let us rediscover the true meaning of this special day. Pause to reflect on what God has done in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones. Keep pondering these blessings each and every day throughout the year. If you do so, you will soon realize that the act of giving thanks generates a powerful lifestyle. †
Sister Maria Goretti Thuy Nguyen, OP, is an associate director with the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.