President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, though short in length, was a rousing tribute to the sacrifices made by so many people in the interest of freedom so that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” He ends his address with a reference to God, as a reminder that the principles of equality and liberty are given to us by our Creator and as such, can never be taken away from this country. Although there is some debate as to how religious Lincoln was, he certainly wasn’t shy when it came to invoking God in many speeches, indicating, at the very least, a belief in the sovereignty of God and His providential care toward mankind. This can also be seen in a lesser-known document that the president issued in October of the same year. This other proclamation established that the final Thursday of each November should be observed nationally as a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Lincoln was mindful of the fact that, even in the midst of the tragedy of the Civil War, God had still been generous in bestowing His blessings upon this country. In his proclamation, after recounting several of those blessings he wrote: “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God.”
On Thanksgiving Day, several come to church to give thanks to God for the many blessings He has given to us over the past year. By doing so, they recall to themselves that these gifts are not merely the result of our hard work or good luck, but that they come from the God who is ever attentive to our needs and grants to us those things of which we are most in need. This form of prayer helps to keep us humble and is a reminder that without Him, nothing is possible.
Being thankful to God for our blessings is not always easy, as can be seen in the story of the ten lepers who approached Jesus, asking Him for healing. After He had granted their request, only one of them returned to give Him thanks. This episode shows us something very important with regards to prayer. It is often very easy for us to turn to God when we are in trouble or when we need something. Once that need is supplied, our lives go back to “normal,” and we sometimes forget that God is responsible for those blessings. It is therefore important for us to develop the habit of constantly giving thanks to God for all of our blessings, both large and small. St. Paul emphasizes this when he encouraged the Thessalonians with the following recommendation: “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes. 5:18). Even though Thanksgiving Day is a national day intended to focus on giving thanks, each day should be an occasion for us to express gratitude to God for our blessings.
Among my many blessings, I give thanks to the many men and women of our parish – unsung heroes – who offer their services without seeking any kind of recompense or special recognition. Among these are: the kind volunteers who clean the altar linens used at each Mass; the money counters of the Sunday collections; the members of our wonderful parish choir; the men and women who assist me in reaching out to the poor and needy in our parish Outreach ministries; the Columbiettes; our volunteer sacristans; the leaders of our Young Adult and Youth ministries; the hosts of our MOMS and POPS ministries; the volunteers of our Summer Bible program for kids; Adult and Youth Religious Education teachers; our Ushers and Hospitality greeters; our Lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and our Knights of Columbus. This last group has been providing for the scholarship program for our SVF students out of their fund-raising at the “Knight at the Races” and other fraternal activities. I also thank our kind and generous donors (many of them anonymous) who continue to selflessly support our parish ministries and programs. If I have missed anyone, then I give thanks to you at this time, too! [Pictured are Knights of Columbus presenting a recent check for the SVF Scholarship Fund]