Thanksgiving Day 1988


One of the things I like about Thanksgiving, especially our Thanksgiving Mass, is that it tends to draw together a core group of our most committed parishioners. If they do not have out of town commitments, they will be here at this Mass. However, there is one person who is conspicuously absent this year. Last week she went into the hospital for a knee operation and is at the beginning of a lengthy recuperation process. I am of course referring to our sacristan Delores Hill.

Delores is a beautiful example of simple gratitude. When I talked to her after the operation, she was in a fair amount of discomfort and and pain, but her remark was, "Jesus is so good." It wasn't an offhand comment, but from the depths of her being. Nor was it just a reference to her own good luck in having access to medical technology. She was talking about all the circumstances of her life. In saying, "Jesus is so good," Delores summed up the spirit of today's Gospel:

"I give you thanks, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from the learned and clever and revealed them to the merest children." (Mt. 11:25)

What is the difference between the clever--the worldly wise--and children? Clever people are always looking for some novelty whereas little children are delighted by repetition. When I was down in Peru, believe it or not, I spent a certain amount of my time just baby-sitting a one year old child. I'd brought a few toys, but what she liked best was when I took a crumbled piece of paper, placed it on my head, counted to three--in English--and let it fall. She would laugh in delight each time it fell. When I got tired and wanted to do something else, she would pick up the paper and hand it to me.

Children do not get bored by repetition. Nor would we if we re-learned the secret Jesus is talking about. That secret is what enables a child to say, "Do it again." An adult who knows it does not shy away from a prayer which is repititive--like the rosary or the Mass. He is always able to find fresh delight in it.

Our celebration of Thanksgiving Day can help us understand that delight. We look forward to Thanksgiving because certain things are the same--the turkey, the cranberry sauce and so on. But in the context of that sameness we are able to welcome new people or discover something about someone we already know.

The key to all this is that simplicity of heart which Jesus extols. It's that kind of simplicity that enables someone like Delores Hill--in spite of everything--to say, "Jesus is so good."

I don't think we realize what a radical thing this heartfelt thanksgiving really is. But really it is the dividing line in human society--and in each human heart. The grateful person is thankful for everything he has received--and therefore can open his heart to others. The ungrateful person is bitter about his life--and therefore resents other people because of what they have or what they might take away from him. Other people become a threat.

We saw this played out in a dramatic way in our last elections. I was reading an analysis which said that the elections showed how far we have gone as a country in guarding what is mine--and protecting it from people perceived as a threat. Ironically we have become fearful of the weakest and most defenseless members of our society--the immigrant, the unborn and the terminally ill. All this has happened even tho we have been showered with more material things than any other people in the world. The people I was with in Peru would trade places tomorrow with the poorest person here in White Center. We have so much, but often we are not grateful.

What we need is a Copernican Revolution in our way of thinking. Copernicus was the Polish astronomer who posited that the sun does not make a circle around the earth, but that the earth revolves around the sun. Our lack of gratitude comes when we think that things revolve around us; we can even view God as one more object out there orbiting us. We need to recognize the truth--that God is the center and everything we have comes from him. When we do that, our stance is simple gratitude. Jesus is so good.

I thank you for coming to Mass this morning to celebrate that reality. On behalf of Fr. Gallagher, Deacon Ted, Greg, Abel and all our parish staff, I wish you a beautiful Thanksgiving Day.

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General Intercessions (Prayers of the Faithful) for Thanksgiving Day Mass

From Archives (Thanksgiving Day Homilies):

Without Gratitude
The Fundamental Freedom - Freedom of Religion
Great Dividing Line
The Power of Gratitude
Thanksgiving and Salvation
Howard Hughes vs. Dostoevsky
The Radical Virtue
Thanksgiving Day 1988

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