Since Catholics celebrated the feast of Christ the King this past Sunday, the liturgical year is about to come to a close this Saturday, on the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (which so happens to be one of my patronal feast days, since St. Andrew is my confirmation saint), but not before another “feast day” intervenes, the feast of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is not an official feast on the Church’s calendar, but there are liturgical texts that have been written for the day (though a former pastor of mine once confided to me that because of the significance of the holiday in the United States, that the notion of making it a Holy Day of Opportunity in the U.S. might be something worth considering). Many parishes will schedule Masses at a special time tomorrow morning to allow people to return thanks to God in a very direct way through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Even the many who won’t make it to Mass tomorrow because of pre-planned holiday outings or obligations will take the time, surely, to remember and recall that the source of our bounty and blessings in this country is not, as many would have it, the mere toil of human endeavor, but largely the favoring hand of a loving Father in Heaven, who has allowed us to live in a place and a time of such abundance.
It would do us well as we sit down to dinner tomorrow to remember that there are people half way around the world who have been the victims of a terrible typhoon, the devastation from which many of us cannot fathom. There are people whose idea of a good meal tomorrow will be a full bowl of rice, and that might be a luxury for them. Some people won’t have even that. There are homeless, hungry, poor people in our own communities who will be fortunate if they have somewhere to go to sit down to a meal tomorrow. In our prayers of thanks tomorrow, let us remember them, as well as the people who sacrifice a day with their own family and friends to serve those who have no home to go to.
For many of us tomorrow, however, it will be a day when we do not simply give thanks for the bounty before us, but we will revel in that plenty. Many will sit down to a large spread, either in their own home or someone else’s, which will probably include a very large turkey, maybe even a ham as well, and dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, casseroles of various kinds, a variety of vegetables, fruits, salads, and sauces…and oh yes, all of those pies and sweets we shouldn’t eat. Tonight we will say “I am not going to eat as much” before we all proceed to do it tomorrow, and we will all enjoy it. Since there is always more food than anyone can ever eat in one sitting, some of us will be watching our favorite college football teams this weekend while filling our halftime cravings with the leftovers from the meal we never quite were able to finish Thursday.
It is strangely fitting that this day set aside on our national calendar for a yearly day of Thanksgiving should always be situated at the end of the liturgical year. This happy coincidence can make for more sober reflection on the blessings of God throughout the year at a time when it is most appropriate for doing so. It is a sad reflection, however, on the excesses of materialism that some businesses which had always given their employees a day off for Thanksgiving Day will now be open on Thanksgiving, because the day is increasingly seen as less of a holiday in some quarters and just another day to add to the Christmas shopping season.
As I wrote on my personal blog last year, the so-called “Black Friday” has already become a high holy day to America’s new god, materialism, where Christ is not proclaimed as King of the Universe, but Cash is acclaimed as King of this World, a modern worship of Ba’al for our modern society that is so obsessed with its things. Now it seems that Thanksgiving itself is increasingly given over to the powers of this world, a day for shopping rather than sharing. In a country that has removed God from almost all other parts of its national public life and civic ritual, the last step seems to be to remove him from the very day set aside by our national forebears to give him thanks.
As Christians, as Catholics, let’s not follow the example that the larger culture seems to be setting. However we choose to go about doing it, let us make Christ the center of our day of giving thanks, and let us remember those who can give thanks despite not having as much as we may appear to have. Let us Bless the Lord!