Do you want to live Thanksgiving this year in the right spirit? That's right, we have to live it with spirit. I'm not talking about team spirit, but about not forgetting all the riches we have in our soul in order to live everything more fully. We have the capacity to reason, choose, feel, remember, and imagine. Also, spiritually, we can grow in our relationship with God – the deepest and most necessary relationship – through prayer, sacraments, learning about our faith, and a good life.
1. Get me out of here! (Prayer)
I was amazed the other day when I read in the Catechism that prayer is where God's thirst for us meets our thirst for Him. I know it's not the first time I've read that phrase, but it still struck me. How cool is that? God thirsts for me. Have you ever been thirsty? The other day I was at a meeting and one of the teachers had an idea in order to teach the kids about what it means to be thirsty: First, they had to set out a bunch of salty snacks for the kids, like Pringles, Cheez-its, etc; then, they had to play a bunch of games with the kids, where they had to run around and work up a sweat; afterwards, the catechists would bring the kids to a room where you could hear the sound of running water; finally, of course, they would give the kids water to drink. It wasn't meant to be torture, obviously (and don't worry, it didn't take place in the US), but you can imagine how graphic it was. They were thirsty.
But just think about: God thirsts for us! And we thirst for Him. And how do we find that glass of ice-cold water? In prayer. Talk to Him today. He's not far from you, He's in your heart. See what happens.
2. C’est la vie (God in our hearts)
Do you learn from life? I'm not talking about analyzing to death everything that happens to you, nor of feeding a psychological need to feel secure, or to fan the fire of our pride by feeling the need to see ourselves perfect. "Everything that happens contains a call from God. The big and little happinesses of life are first and foremost calls to thanksgiving, and the happiness will be even greater if we respond. It is a joyful thing to receive a gift but even more joyful to give thanks for it… Sorrowful events also contain calls, though with a different content. They can be invitations to faith, to hope, to patience, to courage, to acts of forgiveness, to acceptance of our limits... the list is endless." (Jacques Phillipe)
3. Hey, that was my idea! (Giving back)
Think of what you're most thankful for and then do that for others. We are beings that are made to be oriented towards others, to give of ourselves to them.
I can't help but ask you to think of all the old people who are perhaps at home alone at this time of year. Can you imagine? Mother Teresa tells the story of how an elderly man once approached her and said, “Mother, will you please send two sisters to my house to visit me and my wife. All we want is to hear another human voice.” This year, I've been lucky enough to visit many elderly in their homes, and it never ceases to amaze me when we go. There is one lady who struck me more than any other: she had a nice house, a quaint garden, well-kept. When we opened the door, she was just coming out of the bathroom, barely able to keep straight with her walker. Her bed was right there in the entrance, her pajamas left crumpled up to the side, unfolded. She could barely speak and had to make a great effort to make herself understood with her raspy voice. And she told us, "My suffering is the kind you can't see." Her name is Irene and she spends all day alone.
Don't you think you could make someone else happy this Thanksgiving, their best ever?
4. Narcissist alert?
Learn to be thankful for yourself.
Excuse me? Thankful…for myself? Yes. So many evils come from not accepting ourselves as we are, for not allowing God to love us as we are. How many saints have tried to convince us of this fact, even Jesus Himself as Divine Mercy! Mother Teresa exhorts us, "Only believe, you are precious to him. Bring all you are suffering to His feet, only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are…He will do the rest."
Romano Guardini has written some of the most profound and helpful insights on acceptance of oneself: "This is, we repeat, by no means self-evident. For there is — and this throws a glaring light on the finiteness of our existence — a disgust with our own being, a protest against one's self. We must remember again that man is not, like an animal, enclosed in himself, but can rise about himself. He can think about how he would like to be. And many a person lives more in a dream world than in the consciousness of his reality. We know, too, the curious activities by which a person tries to slip out of what he is, dressing up, masking, plays. Does not all this indicate the vain, but ever renewed attempt to be someone different than we really are? So there appears the command, strict and not easy to fulfill, really to wish to be who we are — convinced that behind this there is no dull necessity of nature, nor a malicious chance, but the allotment by eternal wisdom."
5. Better than a Hallmark Card
Want to know the best way to give thanks? Fall in love with the Eucharist, with Jesus’ presence. "Eucharist means first of all thanksgiving." (1360) If we come in contact with God in the Eucharist and fall in love with Him and His beauty and goodness, then we won’t want to go even a day without receiving His love at Mass. “In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity." (1359)
That's the best Thanksgiving you can have, or give.
A little side note – do you know when Thanksgiving was actually instituted in the US? You have to look a little further than the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, and their Indian Friend, Squanto. Have you heard of the “Proclamation of Thanksgiving” made by President Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863? Among other things, he proclaimed, still at the height of the Civil War, "No human counsel has devised nor has any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, has nevertheless remembered mercy… I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States…to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the Heavens."