Sir 50. 22-24; Ps 34; 1Co 1.3-9; Mt 11. 25-30
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Celebrating Our Mission
A word about the holiday and what Jesus makes distinctive about it. “The first recorded Thanksgiving observance was held on June 29, 1671, at Charlestown, Massachusetts by proclamation of the town’s governing council. ”/1/ In the next century days of thanksgiving were not limited to one day a year.
A Thanksgiving Day 200 years ago was a day set aside for prayer and fasting, not a day marked by plentiful food and drink as is today’s custom. Later in the 18th century each of the states periodically would designate a day of thanksgiving in honor of a military victory, an adoption of a state constitution or an exceptionally bountiful crop./2/
These first and later days of thanksgiving revolved around the historic first, national one proclaimed by President Washington during his first term: “A Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer.”
His October 3, 1789, decree appointed the day “to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God.”/3/
God’s chief signal favor is no less than God’s self-gift to us in Jesus by the power of their Spirit. Jesus is God’s grace; how we are enriched in every way...so that [we] are not lacking in any spiritual gift as [we] wait for the revelation of our Lord and Savior.
The revelation of our risen Messiah has the aspect of his final, glorious return as well as his constant communion with us. His fidelity to me moves me so that I feel awestruck as well as joyful. Awe takes our breath away, while joy is the bellows of our hearts. Both are valid responses to our God [who] is faithful. Today reminds us that our daily responses to God have a public character: we Catholics call it mission. The Second Vatican Council described our mission concretely: each of us is in “the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of our Lord Jesus and as a sign that God lives.”/4/
Jesus is the source of our life and all we have. We celebrate that today as citizens. Our distinctive role, given us by Jesus, is to nourish our world with fruits of Jesus’ spirit. “In a word [which is an ancient observation], ‘what the soul is to the body, let Christians be to the world.”/5/ Nothing is or can be more distinctive!
1. This and other quotations are at Earlyamerica.com
4. Lumen gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), 38.
5. Letter to Diognetus, 6, by an anonymous author. This one-sentence exhortation from this letter closed the conciliar paragraph cited above in note 4.
Wiki-image of a church interior is in the public domain.