THANKSGIVING DAY is, from an historical, traditional and family standpoint, the most important of this Nation’s holidays. It is the celebration that most clearly congregates American society and in which the United States of America is most deeply rooted both culturally and collectively.
It is an anthropologically well-founded celebration. Gratitude thrusts its roots deep into the very essence of the human being, since in every man and woman there lives the capacity to observe everything that they are, everything that they have and everything that surrounds them, to take stock and GIVE THANKS.
The attitude and lifestyle of men and women who are capable of being thankful go hand in hand with happiness, since a person is happy when he or she is capable of the perception necessary to foster recognition and gratitude. At the other end of the scale are those who have forgotten or who have never developed this ontological capacity – individuals who are blind to life and reality – and who run the risk of suffering sadness, boredom and dejection.
A happily thankful attitude, on the other hand, generates hope, turns existence into a time and space worthy of living, and fills it with all of the different nuances and tones to confront the constant threat that routine poses in the everyday pace of human history. But it is not only the routine of a materialistic and consumer-oriented society – accustomed as it is to having everything – that poses a grave threat to gratitude. There is also the threat posed by the incapacity to be amazed at every new discovery, to be awed by what we are and what we have, by what we receive “free” in the arrogant belief that we deserve everything and need not be thankful for anything.
In this way, thankfulness, as an attitude and a lifestyle, additionally becomes an antidote against the experience of evil in the world. The person who gives thanks does not do so forgetting that evil exists, but in spite of and against evil. He or she does so in search of better conditions and better days, and in search of reasons for which to be grateful.
Gratitude, then, as a way of life, evokes both past and present, in order to give thanks for them, but in an active way that pushes us to build “the new Heaven and the new Earth” that we hope for, in order to keep on giving thanks.
Gratitude, thus, is a song, a shout of protest against all manifestations of evil in history. Gratitude, in short, frees us, because it exorcises misery, poverty, calamities, hatred, divisions, failures, violence, conflicts, disregard, abuse, injustice, suffering and even death itself.
It is here, within this anthropological foundation of gratitude for the bounty of life, conceived of as an invaluable gift, that the rites by which we celebrate THANKSGIVING DAY in this Nation lie.
To this so deeply human experience of gratitude, inserted as we said within the essence of our very being and in the hearts of every man and woman of goodwill, Christian revelation – for believers in Christ – adds more and more reasons to live a happily thankful life.
We Christians give thanks for life and Creation as a gift from God, and we thank the compassionate and merciful Father of us all, in the Holy Spirit, for making us his sons and daughters and, therefore, brothers and sisters among ourselves. We give thanks for His eternal presence in our history and we celebrate all of this daily, but especially each Sunday in THE EUCHARIST (a word that comes from Greek and means ACT OF THANKSGIVING), the primordial and supreme ACT OF THANKSGIVING in the life of the ecclesiastic community and of every Christian.
We congratulate ourselves, then, on this great national celebration of THANKSGIVING, which permits us, furthermore, to pause and examine our individual and community conscience regarding the sufficient reasons we have on this holiday for both giving and not giving thanks.
If we are truly building a world, a society, a culture and people in consonance with the common good, with justice, with humanization and for abundant life, then this holiday, like every rite of thanksgiving, takes on validity and makes sense. But if, on the contrary, there exists within us and, therefore, within society, enormous and very evident manifestations of evil, injustice and sinfulness, then THANKSGIVING DAY like any other thanksgiving rite, runs the risk of turning into a celebration of the absurd, of nonsense, of a farce and of emptiness.
Let us, then, construct sufficient spaces and reasons in which and for which to be grateful and to give thanks, and to live our lives “in hope, even against all hope.”