255: Thanksgiving Day 2020 God calls us into the reality that we are in a relationship with everyone
A Thanksgiving 2020 Reflection by Fr. Neil Pezzulo
Fr. Neil Pezzulo is from an order called Glenmary, a small, committed band of missioners, who accompany the people of Appalachia. Glenmary was founded in 1939 He to serve the thousands of poor, neglected and forgotten people who inhabited rural America - "areas in the United States that were starving for the Bread of Life."
This is Father Neil's reflection: Is giving Thanks enough?
At least for me, Thanksgiving is a comfortable holiday. It’s often predictable and whether we admit it or not, there is a lot of ritual involved. It has been my favorite holiday since I was a little kid.
One of the most common rituals is to give thanks for our blessing. Personally, I have a lot to be thankful for in my life. I’ve never been hungry or homeless. I’ve never been a migrant or a refugee, traveling far from home in order to simply survive. I have never suffered a serious illness or been incarcerated unjustly. I’ve never been deprived of anything and when I have actually been told “NO”, it was not anything crucial to my survival. Truly, I have many reasons to be thankful.
This thanksgiving as I begin my ritual of giving thanks the words of St. Paul ring true to me…”God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I’m thankful for that….that special and at times privatized fellowship with Jesus Christ that I possess and have for as long as I can remember. Even as a child I always thought that we should go to Church on Thanksgiving. Even as a child I felt that special fellowship with Jesus. At some level, it’s always been part of my thanksgiving ritual to include Jesus.
Now as a middle-aged adult I realize that my simply giving thanks on thanksgiving is not enough, in fact it’s lacking. It may even be selfish. To give thanks for all my blessings with little or even no regard to others is selfish. Thanksgiving is not all about me.
After I “wrap my head” around that thought, I will likely be thankful, but right now it’s a threat to my regular thanksgiving ritual and my special and at times privatized fellowship with Jesus.
Perhaps today is the day when, as a truly thankful disciple I can open my mind and heart to something new - A new experience of being thankful.
In the Gospel of Luke we read about the ten lepers and how they were cured. Honestly, it’s kind of easy to identify with the one leper who returned and glorified God in a loud voice. However, what truly happened with the other nine? I’ve never given them much thought other than to judge them as unthankful.
Perhaps my judgement is both premature and incorrect. After Jesus cured the ten lepers and only one seemingly gave thanks I need to remember that the other nine likely returned home to their friends and family, likely returned to their regular lives and livelihoods. Likely they returned to society and may have even returned to the Temple and offered Thanks for their miraculous cure. We simply do not know.
Now the challenge is to be thankful for them and with them, even if I do not know them or their lives.
Yet as someone who professes to be thankful I have to expand my view and understanding of what thankfulness truly is, not only in the time of Jesus, but today. What does thankfulness look like today in a world where countless people are being denied their right to participate in society on a regular basis?
Regularly people are being denied their God given rights to food and drinkable water, living wage work which brings a dignity to both the work and the worker. They are being denied their right to participate in society. They are not allowed, for various reasons to participate in the common good of everyone.
The lepers we read about in the Gospel of Luke were denied any participation in society because they were lepers. How many people are denied simply because of their skin color, their health or disability, or their country of origin, or are the poor, particularly in the rural southern United States. Are these people the “new lepers” of today?
How many people are isolated from the rest of society by mental illness? We as a people are social beings and are called to live in community with others – our full human potential isn’t realized in solitude, but in community with others. The desire to be connected beyond ourselves is one of the primal reasons people marry or join a religious community. How many people cannot get married today because of civil law? How many people are being denied civil marriage licenses because they cannot produce a social security card? When did having a social security card become mandated for a valid marriage? To be denied marriage is to be denied the ability to fully participate in society. Perhaps we have found the “new” lepers” of today?
As a person of faith and a person who professes to be thankful I must remember that I have many options. I am not alone, even though I often try to convince myself of that, I cannot privatize my relationship with Jesus. It doesn’t begin or end with me; it’s not even about me.
This morning I read from the Gospel of Luke: “….As he was entering a village, ten persons with leprosy met him…” it’s important to notice that he cured all of them, not only a special or select few. His concern for the powerless, the poorest and the most vulnerable cannot stop with him and simply become a lesson on being thankful. It calls us out and beyond ourselves and our privatized relationships with Jesus and each other.
Today I am thankful, I’m thankful because I have abundance. I am thankful for my faith and those who taught me particularly my mother, godmother, aunts and uncles who, by word and deed taught me to be thankful. I’m thankful for the people I’ve met and have challenged my faith and the saints, both recognized and not who lived their lives and faith, not a privatized faith, but a public one that set the example. They lived like Jesus curing the lepers when they could.
Who are the lepers today? In many ways we are. In many ways we too can be thankful. Not only for our blessings and our personal relationships, but we can be thankful that we are in a relationship with a God who calls all of us out, out of our comfort zones and into the reality that we are in a relationship with everyone, all of God’s children.
And the demands of that relationship cannot be privatized. That is why I’m thankful today.
Gratitude Goulash (from our dear friend Bill Boorman)
Take down your biggest pot,
bigger than you think you need
Slice, dice or cut into manageable pieces
memories of unbounded joy
and the desiccated remains
of life's calamitous events
Now throw them in the pot
Look around for missed ingredients
there are bound to be some
Add spring water, local honey, vinegar,
a pinch of heaven
a smidgen of hell
Bring this mess to a rolling boil, cover, reduce heat
simmer on a back burner for
as long as it takes
When your kitchen has a mysterious scent
ask a close friend to dinner
Get out a couple bowls
they need not match
Just before serving fold in
a cup of success
and a quarter pound of failure
Then be very liberal with paprika
this is goulash after all
Welcome your friend to the table
solemnly bless what’s there
taste the bitter and the sweet
One bite is all you’ll need
enough to taste
the complex flavors of gratitude
Now forget the goulash
take your friend out to dinner
Order something you’ve never tried
- Doug von Koss
Acappella "Create In Me"
Sly & The Family Stone - Thank You
Yiruma - River Flows in You