November 24, 2017

Christ the Cornerstone

Thanksgiving reminds us that we are a blessed people

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“We Catholics celebrate the holy Eucharist (whose name comes from the Greek word for ‘thanksgiving’) every day, but on this day, Thanksgiving, we give special thanks to God for all his abundant blessings. That includes the gift of life itself, our parents and families, the love that we share with spouses and children, our friends, our freedom as Americans, our vocations as disciples of Jesus Christ, our material possessions, our intellectual gifts and talents, and much, much more.”
—Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Thanksgiving Day 2016

The publication date for this column is on Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving. It’s unfortunately known as “Black Friday,” a day when consumerism and greed threaten to overshadow the warmth and good feelings of the day before.

As Christians, we shouldn’t buy into the temptation to spend this day shopping for the best possible bargains, fighting elbow to elbow with other half‑crazed consumers. Shop if you choose—today or any other day—but do it with a strong sense of gratitude, the thankful spirit we celebrate on Thanksgiving Day. And as we shop for “extras,” let’s always keep in mind the people here in Indiana and throughout the world who can barely afford life’s necessities.

Pope Francis has challenged us to get up off our comfortable couches and “go to the peripheries” where the poor, the strangers and the outcasts dwell.

The peripheries are generally not physical places. They are made up of states of mind. We too often choose to stay in our own “neighborhoods” (the pope calls them our “comfort zones”).

These “neighborhoods” are sometimes psychological and sometimes geographical enclaves or gated communities where we feel safe because we are surrounded by our own kind.

Pope Francis urges us to break down these barriers and “build bridges.” He challenges us—always in a loving way—to accept our Lord’s invitation to “Go, sell what you have, give it to the poor, and come follow me” (Mt 19:21). Like the rich young man in the Gospel, we hesitate—especially those of us who have many possessions!

The Thanksgiving holiday reminds all Americans regardless of race, creed, economic or social standing that we are a blessed people. We have been given many gifts, including political freedom, economic opportunity and religious liberty. We dare not take these gifts for granted or abuse them by neglect or through arrogant selfishness toward those who are less fortunate than we are.

A true spirit of gratitude helps us keep our perspective. Our material and spiritual blessings aren’t owned by us. They are gifts we are called to take care of and share as responsible stewards of God’s generosity.

Baptism is one of the invaluable gifts we have been given. The privilege of membership in the Body of Christ, the Church, carries with it serious obligations. We are called to “be Christ” for others, to spread the good news of his kingdom and to love our neighbors—even our enemies—with a generous and grateful spirit.

The gift of baptism compels us to be missionary disciples, not in a grudging or halfhearted way, but as eager, zealous followers of Jesus Christ, the greatest missionary who ever lived. If we walk in Christ’s footsteps with a grateful heart, we will be like our Blessed Mother Mary and all the saints. We will recognize even strangers and enemies as brothers and sisters in the one family of God. We will want to be instruments of unity and healing in a broken, wounded world.

The Eucharist is the source of Christian thanksgiving. It is the great prayer of grateful remembrance that celebrates in word and sacrament God’s gifts of creation, redemption and sanctification. Every day that Mass is celebrated is a day of thanksgiving. And every time we participate actively in the eucharistic banquet, we give the greatest possible thanks for God’s abundant blessings in our lives.

In truth, there is only one “Black Friday.” It’s the one day in the year that Mass is not celebrated, the day we commemorate Jesus’ passion and death.

But we don’t call this day “Black Friday.” We call it “Good Friday” because we acknowledge that even in humanity’s darkest hour, the light of Christ shone brightly, transforming the blackness of sin into the brightness of God’s love and mercy.

That is certainly something to be thankful for as we enter into the Advent and Christmas seasons. We give and receive many gifts during this time of year. Some are material gifts and others—like being with people we love and serving the needs of others—are spiritual gifts. Both are important, and both should be given and received with a deep sense of gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving! †

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