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.
Certainly, our family’s life this year has been blessed beyond measure. Last year, at Thanksgiving, my son Eric had just started a new school and was working on finding new friends in a new community. Last year, at Thanksgiving, I had the huge task of writing an entire book looming over me. Last year on Thanksgiving, I was recovering from surgery and awaiting the lab results that would send me into a months-long battle against non-invasive breast cancer.
It’s amazing to look back one year later and so tangibly see the hand of God in our lives. Every day of every year, I feel so incredibly fortunate, but this one day of the year it feels right to simply sit and dwell for a few moments on the incredible magnitude of God’s bountiful goodness. It truly is stunning.
I wanted to share with you a column I recently wrote for our diocesan newspaper. It speaks to the place I know many people are in this year:
Giving Thanks in All Things
“Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
For the past few weeks, I have been contemplating our family’s plans for Thanksgiving this year. With my parents and siblings spread across the country and a husband who will be working a Thanksgiving Day shift in the Emergency Department, it’s likely we won’t be having the typical “Norman Rockwell” picture perfect feast this year. There will be prayers, turkey, family, and – yes, likely football too – but this year’s holiday celebration will bend a few of our family traditions into new shapes, creating unique memories along the way.
Perhaps your life circumstances have you feeling less than thankful this year. So many of us seem to be suffering these days. The H1N1 virus threatens, as does a careening economy, water woes and an enduring unrest in the Middle East. Many families across our valley will celebrate Thanksgiving just a bit differently this year. Some will dine on provisions supplemented by our local Catholic Charities. Others will bow heads in silent prayer remembering loved ones absent from the family table and serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. A fireman will work on Thanksgiving, while his neighbor down the street may be out of work altogether this year.
Yet despite all of this, our nation will collectively pause on November 26 to give thanks. Many Americans call Thanksgiving their favorite holiday since it evokes thoughts of family and fellowship and skips the materialism that has beset so many of our other celebrations. We Catholics will embrace the day in prayer, thanking a loving God who hears and knows our needs even more deeply than we ourselves do.
As you gather with your loved ones this year, remember those words of Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians, that invitation to pray “without ceasing”. He called upon them, and perhaps upon you and I as well, to offer thanks in all things, regardless of the circumstances. When we pause to share those words of gratitude this year around our Thanksgiving tables, let us recall our Holy Father, our Bishop and our priests during this Year for Priests, offering appreciation for their level of commitment and for their “yes” to a life of service and vocation. In a special way, let us pray thankfully for the elected leaders who labor on our behalf, asking God to grant them the courage and wisdom to do what is truly right. Finally, let us especially remember one another, the Body of Christ, here in the Diocese of Fresno – each toddler, teen, parent and senior – lifting each other up in joy and true thanksgiving…in all circumstances.
May God truly bless you and your family today and always!
With love and gratitude,