"Give Thanks to the Lord For He is Good" - A Reflection on Thanksgiving By Fr. Frank Miloro
Do you still feel full from Thursday?
If the International Calorie Control Council is right, it was quite possible for any one of us to consume as many as 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. We Americans actually consumed 535 million pounds of turkey on Thursday. Do you wonder why you may still feel full from Thanksgiving?
Ironically, in the shadow of the affluent lifestyle to which we have become accustomed, there is poverty, and it is growing because of more than 10.2% unemployment. An Economy in crisis is also causing people to hold back – in their purchases, in their spending, and, yes, also in their giving. People are holding back.
United Way of Cambria County conducted a special drive all through June of this year to support children who find themselves in homeless shelters without personal belongings. the drive was to benefit Cambria County Detention Home and Shelter, the Salvation Army, Children and Youth Services, and The Women’s Help Center. The director of the program told me that 37 letters of appeal were sent out . Only 3 responded – our parish was one of them. I was stunned at those results.
According to Tuesday’s ‘Tribune Democrat’, for some folks, things are much worse than they’ve ever been. In an article in Tuesday’s paper, we read how food pantries are toughing it out. Human services ministries are overworked. Our own family kitchen and Saturday kitchen which our parish works and supports had been averaging 150 free lunches a day. It has jumped as high as 260 a day. A report released last week shows that nationwide 14.6 percent of U.S. households had difficulty finding enough food at least sometimes, which is up from 11.1 percent the previous year. Locally, officials point out that there have always been needy people in our area. But here is what is changing to make all this alarming. Our local officials’ concern is that the sharp increases in need are not with those who have always been poor. The sharp increases in need are being caused by families where husband and wife both work and still cannot get by. That’s a big difference between people in financial trouble more than a year ago, and people in financial trouble today. Never-the-less, thank God, our faith-based community agencies managed this past Thursday to provide a bountiful Thanksgiving meal for everyone who was in need.
So now that Thanksgiving has passed and we come to the end of the traditional “eating weekend”, it does us good this morning to meditate on why we are thankful.
Let’s not make this a difficult academic exercise. Here is how basic, simple and easy it is. look in the Old Testament Book of Psalms. In the very first verse of psalm 107, this is what we believers are reminded to do: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!”. This national holiday weekend should remind us to begin each day with a breath of thanks to the Lord, for He is Good! It should also remind us to close each day in thanksgiving to God for the many glimpses of Grace that we have experienced. Indeed, He is very good!
As we are meditating this morning on the true meaning of thankfulness, I would like you to think about 2 things.
First of all, who are you thankful for? Look around you on any given day. Who will you see? There are members of your family, there are co-workers, there are friends and there are also people you don’t really like, there is your church family, there are neighbors ---- give thanks for all these people! I know that it is hard to pray for those who have said unkind things about you. And yet we need to lift up those people to God. Look at it this way: if we don’t do that, they may never be lifted to God. We need to release them from our anger, from our hatred, from our nagging desire to “get even” with them. You know, when we do that, we find peace because God’s Holy Spirit can work through us. Remember, when we deal with another person, we are looking at God’s creation which is good! That person may have gone off track, but the point is – he or she went off track, God didn’t. God did not create him or her that way. God created us all good.
There is a Christian internet newsletter that’s called “Monday Moments”. Michael Halleen is the editor, and he recently told this story. Some time ago, he was on a Russian flight from Minsk to Kiev. The plane was an older Russian twin-engine model. It was boarded through a door in the aft part of the cabin. When the plane landed at Kiev’s airport, Mike stood up and began to collect his belongings. Another passenger motioned for him to sit down. The passenger told him that it was their custom to wait for the pilot to leave first, and as he passed by the passengers to leave by that one exit door at the other end of the plane, they had a chance to express their thanks. A number of people said ‘Spasibo’; a few nodded and smiled; one even reached out to shake hands.
You see, we can choose the way we respond in any given situation to others around us. We can decide to show kindness, we can decide to answer gently, we can decide to adopt a humble spirit – all of this much like we might select a shirt or a blouse to put on in the morning. Or, we can decide to be grumpy, ignorant and disrespectful, or even belligerent. that choice is yours! I hope we make the choices that reflect the goodness of God who created us good.
You know, David the psalmist was not the only one who expressed the goodness of God. in the very first book of the Bible, when God finished creating, He beheld what He had made. the Book of Genesis says this: “and God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good”. There it is! Give thanks to everyone around you. we are all his children, this God who created you and called you very good.
We just answered “who are we to be thankful for?”. Now secondly, let’s consider this question: “what are you thankful for?”. You know, there are situations and circumstances that all of us tend to reject as annoyances, even detriments to our lives. Let me remind you what apostle St. Paul says in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians. in the 5th chapter, verse 18, this is what we read: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”. St. Paul is reminding us to be thankful for everything.
There is no doubt that we all go through life welcoming some circumstances and avoiding others. We usually try to find ways of running away from tough circumstances. But St. Paul says don’t run from them; instead, run to God! And don’t forget to give thanks that our God will even work in such circumstances as those! We need to be grateful for that. Our god does not abandon us, ever. Remember that God is on His throne, and we are going to be o.k.
Here is one of the finest thoughts I have ever heard on what we should be thankful for. It was written in 1985: “We are grateful for our abundant harvests and the productivity of our industries; for the discoveries of our laboratories; for the research of our scientists and scholars; for the achievements of our artists, musicians, writers, clergy, teachers, physicians, businessmen, engineers, public servants, farmers, mechanics, artisans and workers of every sort whose honest toil of mind and body in a free land rewards them and their families, and enriches our entire nation”.
Those words were spoken by the late President Ronald Reagan in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1985.
Let’s take the message home today! Let’s all give thanks to the Lord, for He is Good!
Christ is among us! He is and always shall be!
(A Homily Delivered on Sunday November 29, 2009 at Christ the Saviour Orthodox Cathedral)