Homily — Thanksgiving MMVIII 11/27/08

Homily — Thanksgiving MMVIII 11/27/08

Today, our Nation and it’s citizens imitate the Samaritan leper in today’s Gospel by falling at the feet of Jesus and thanking Him for all His blessings and graces.

From the very beginning of our country’s founding, and throughout our nation’s history, the people of America have held national days of Thanksgiving to God for all His blessings on us.

The first recorded Thanksgiving feast in our Country actually took place in 1565 when 600 Spanish settlers arrived in St. Augustine Florida on September 8th, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Birthday.

They immediately celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving for arriving safely (the first Mass ever celebrated in our country), and after Mass held a feast with the local Indians. According to researchers, no Turkey was on the menu, only Bean Soup.

Fifty-six years later, in the Autumn of 1621 in Plymouth Massachusetts, the Pilgrims held a big feast in the late fall after their first harvest in the New World. While Turkeys were on the menu that day, according to historians it was more of a big party than a day of Thanksgiving to God. When the Pilgrims finally had a Day of Thanksgiving, it was a day of Prayer and Fasting.

From the research I’ve done, Turkeys and Thanksgiving didn’t seem to come together until after our country’s Independence, when in 1777 the Continental Congress put out the First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving. This is what that proclamation in stated (I’ve removed only a few archaic words to the original):

FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the . . . . Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to Him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of:

And it having pleased Him in His abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of His . . . . Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties . . . .
It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE:

That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that . . . . they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, . . . . and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance;

That it may please Him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively . . . .

To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE:

That it may please Him,

to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People . . . . that our Land may yield its Increase:

To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under His nurturing Hand;

and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”

And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as . . . . may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

And on that fine note, Thanksgiving began to be celebrated as a National Holiday in this great Nation of ours.

During this year of St. Paul in our Church, given the situation we find our nation to be in, it may be good to reflect on the passage from First Thessalonians 5:16—18, where St. Paul says

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

As Christians, we always have much to be thankful for. God is so good to us, in giving us Faith to live by, in giving us a Church, family, friends, health, life.

Through our faith in Christ, we can even be thankful for the trials God sends us — so these days, we have a lot to be thankful for! But seriously, it was in the darkest hour of Jesus’ life that He gave Solemn Thanks to God in the Holy Eucharist. Even then, Jesus could see all the many many blessings God the Father had given Him, and Jesus was truly thankful.

May God help us this Thanksgiving to like Christ our Lord give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us.

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