(Sirach 50:22-24; I Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17”11-19)
There is a touch of irony in the fact that the Pilgrims, who originated the American tradition of Thanksgiving, did not celebrate Christmas. When December 25 came around, the Pilgrims made sure not to stop their work to rejoice. They considered the celebration of Christmas a pagan custom to be shunned. Today, of course, Thanksgiving begins the Christmas season in the United States. From the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Christmas Parade to “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, when Christmas shopping begins in earnest, Thanksgiving anticipates the celebration of the Lord’s birth.
There is certainly sufficient reason for linking Thanksgiving Day and Christmas. As St. Paul does in the first reading today, we reserve our most special thanks to God for Jesus Christ. He crowns our lives with hope and infinite love. At times, in our struggle to do the right thing – to become holy, as Pope Benedict constantly reminds us – we wonder if anyone cares. We may not want to make a spectacle of our donation to charity because Jesus tells us to give alms in secret but wonder whether it would be better for everyone if people saw what we are doing. Jesus, however, assures us that our heavenly Father notes our action. Or perhaps we ask ourselves if we should not listen to lewd comedians as many people do. But then we remember how Jesus promises that the pure of heart shall see God.
Today Americans give thanks for many gifts, especially freedom, opportunity, and plenty. Yet God’s most precious offering to us is His son who deepens our freedom, expands our opportunities, and multiplies our plenty. Our thanks to Him for these benefits stretch from today, through Christmas and throughout the new year.