(Sirach 50:22-24; I Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19)
Tony Snow was an American journalist who became President Bush’s press secretary. He died prematurely this past July leaving behind a legacy of hope, candor, and goodwill. Snow once wrote, “If you think Independence Day is America’s defining holiday, think again. Thanksgiving deserves that title, hands-down.” Snow meant, I think, that we Americans are not so independent or, as people say today, autonomous as we are conscious of God’s presence in our lives.
What specifically do we thank God for? Obviously the roots of Thanksgiving go back to a harvest festival recognizing God’s hand in the production of the fruits of the earth. We children of the Industrial Age and beyond, also thank God for the bounty that we have experienced in our lives – family and friends, education and opportunity, peace and prosperity. As Christians we have a further and deeper reason for giving God thanks. God has forgiven our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and has sent us the Holy Spirit so that we might live as daughters and sons of righteousness. In the Eucharist where we memorialize Christ’s paschal sacrifice we express our thanks for this new life of grace.
Some may object here that Christians do not act any more enlightened than other peoples. That is a hypothesis which needs to be tested. Certainly missionary efforts establishing hospitals and schools in pagan and non-Christian areas testify to Christian concern for others. In any case we might take note of what St. Paul is saying in today’s reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians. He thanks God for the Corinthians’ coming to faith even though further into the letter he will chastise them for different excesses and abuses. Paul recognizes that his Corinthians are indeed a community of renewed women and men, many of whom lead exemplary lives. The Church will always count some incorrigibles and backsliders in her midst; nevertheless, we know her, as well Paul knew the Christians in Corinth, to be a community of decent people striving to follow Christ’s lead. For being called to this people of faith we are also thankful.