Thanksgiving Homily

Thanksgiving Day

 It’s very good that the blue laws are still in effect, at least for the most part, on Thanksgiving Day, although some Wal-Mart stores are opening today, which is most unfortunate, as it takes workers away from their families in a non-essential way. What used to be the practice every Sunday, businesses for the most part will remain closed for this day.

Those that open are mostly connected with the food service industry, as it seems that more and more people are opting to let someone else do the cooking on this day. No pots and pans; no dishes or silverware to be cleaned at home when Thanksgiving is celebrated in a food establishment.

The reason it’s good that most people have a work-free day from the daily grind is so we can stop all the motion in our busy lives, and turn around and return to Jesus to give thanks.

It’s fascinating from a religious perspective how the one leper is the model chosen by the Church for giving thanks to God. It’s not the 12 Apostles. It’s not even our Blessed Mother, or one of the friends of Jesus, such as Martha, Mary, or Lazarus. Lazarus probably thanked Jesus for calling him out of the tomb. But he’s not the standard bearer for this day. The model for giving thanks to God is some obscure, unnamed, unknown former leper, who belonged to a small colony of lepers who happened to cry out to Jesus for mercy.

And because they yelled out loud enough, Jesus heard their SOS, their call of distress. He heard their voices before they sank entirely in the waters of their diseased colony, and gave them a commandment; “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

They carried out the commandment of the Lord, just as we do our best to carry out what Moses received on the holy mountain.

But one of the ten went above and beyond the directive of Jesus. When he realized he was cured, he stopped going to the priests. One could argue at this point, he disobeyed Jesus. He stopped doing what Jesus directed them to do. Why? Because he had the wisdom to realize a greater purpose had arrived as a result of his healing. Now all of a sudden, going to show himself to the priests became much less necessary than returning to Jesus to give thanks. Instead of showing himself to the priests, he returned to give thanks to the High Priest, Jesus the Lord.

This is why Thanksgiving is such a holy day, and why all non-essential businesses should respect it from beginning to end. This day should cause us to stop in our present tracks, realize we have been cured by Jesus’ saving act of redemption, and return to give thanks for that greater purpose.

Yes, we give thanks today for our countless blessings. It’s very important to do so for our spiritual well-being. From our physical comforts to our physical condition, an offering of gratitude is necessary on our part. This reflects in the Gospel the other nine lepers, who had to be thankful without returning to Jesus. I find it too difficult to believe they went from a leper colony separated from all potential good in that culture, to freedom in every way, without being grateful.

But Thanksgiving finds its true representative in one unknown leper. This day is special, just as he acted in a special way apart from the other nine. There’s a greater purpose represented in the one leper’s return. It wasn’t just a return to say thanks to the one who gave a commandment to go show themselves to the priests. It was a return to God.

The greater purpose for giving thanks was the fact that he had the capacity to return to God, as we do. This is the greater purpose for being thankful. Jesus opened this door for the leper, as he opens the same door for us.

That in Jesus’ act of redemption, we are now allowed the grace to say to God, “Thank you.” Thank you for saving my body and my soul. Your cure of the Cross has made this possible.