In All Circumstances—Give Thanks
Gospel Reflection for Thursday, November 23, 2023
Today is Thanksgiving and in light of that, I chose two appropriate passages from today’s Mass readings.
And now, bless the God of all,
who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb,
and fashions them according to his will!
May he grant you joy of heart
and may peace abide among you;
May his goodness toward us endure in Israel
to deliver us in our days.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
In all circumstances, give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I LOVE Thanksgiving! Yes, it is a secular holiday and as a Southerner I do have some qualms about how it was founded. I also take issue with the historical narrative most of us are taught in school… that the Pilgrims were essentially the first American settlers. The truth is that there were Spanish, Dutch, French and English colonies in North America long before the Pilgrims - they were actually on their way to an established colony but landed at Plymouth Rock because they ran out of beer! That is not a criticism, as beer was essential for survival due to not having clean drinking water…. and I enjoy beer enough to brew my own. I had an ancestor on the second voyage of the Mayflower, so I am not going to criticize the Pilgrims… although they DEFINITELY were not Catholic and very few of us would wish to live under their strict rules today. But, Thanksgiving was used as sort of a yankee-fication of American history following the Civil War, creating a narrative that ignored the southern history of the nation such as the Jamestown Colony in Virginia, the long history of Louisiana under several flags and the fact that our first presidents were all southerners.
All of that aside, I think it is a wonderful holiday! Any reminder of the profound gratitude we owe to God is welcome. Several years ago, I recall Monseigneur Jeffery Ingham ending Mass on the Sunday before Thanksgiving with the words, “I am sure I will see you all here on Thanksgiving Day Mass, as it would be impossible for any Christian to give thanks and celebration without first giving honor to the one from whom all blessings come.” And yep, the church was packed on Thursday! As the priest who confirmed me said, “If you want to know what the voice of God must sound like, listen to Fr. Ingham!”
This is a wonderful day to spend with family and friends and to enjoy all that God has given us. My traditional family meal includes smoked turkey (I am smoking the turkey over Wild Cherry and Birch as I write this), collard, turnip and mustard greens, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry compote, cornbread, my grandmother’s chicken dressing (some call it stuffing, but it is baked in a casserole dish as opposed to inside the bird) and sweet potato pudding (really a soufflé) for desert. There will be other vegetables and perhaps a few more deserts.
My grandmother used to cook massive meals for huge numbers of family members who would come to her table for Thanksgiving. Being a single guy with no kids, things are not quite the same for me. My family has dwindled down dramatically over the past couple of decades. Instead of a house full of laughter and screaming kids, usually it just my mother who joins me. Occasionally my two elderly aunts may drive in, but they live out of state and post COVID we rarely see each other. In all honesty the holidays can make me a little sad. Life certainly hasn’t turned out as I planned and barring a miracle, it seems I’ll be spending them alone in a few years.
But, none of that matters in view of eternity. In our earthly life, every breath and every meal is a gift from God. Every day is an opportunity. Every life carries unimaginable potential. And death, for the Christian is hope in the promises of God. My grandfather died of ALS when I was 10. He spent years paralyzed, unable to talk, eat or breathe on his own and in incredible pain. He loved to hear the Bible read aloud. His favorite passage was, “In my father’s house there are many mansions…” I think, perhaps, he imagined all the family together again for that wonderful Thanksgiving. His favorite gospel song was a classic by the former governor of Louisiana, Jimmy Davis called “Suppertime.” The refrain was the words of the man’s mother calling, as she had when he was a child, “Come home, come home its suppertime.” In this life, we are pilgrims on a journey… we are merely passing through.
Judson Carroll is the author of several books, including his newest, Confirmation, an Autobiography of Faith. It is Available in paperback on Amazon:
His new podcast is The Uncensored Catholic https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-uncensored-catholic