Has anyone noticed how the Thanksgiving Holiday is becoming more holiday and less thanks giving? How many of us regard Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday more as the beginning of a month-long consumption splurge than as an occasion for expressing our gratitude to God for the bounty he has bestowed on us? In our shared national heritage do we today recall that first Thanksgiving in 1621 celebrated by the pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians or its subsequent declaration as a national day of observance by President Lincoln in 1863?
If we do not perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising. We all know that according to recent surveys we are becoming an increasingly godless society. In many sectors religion is not only casually abandoned but forcefully derided. As we relegate God to the realm of myth nothing obliges us to recognize let alone respect his natural law. Boastful of our newly experienced ‘freedom’ and newly coined ‘rights’ we are oblivious to the ‘dictatorship of unbridled liberty’ (Cardinal Sarah) that enslaves us. There is no God to whom we offer thanks – only ‘progress’ for which we express appreciation. Appreciation is not gratitude. Maybe our current President should proclaim the fourth Thursday in November as ‘National Appreciation Day’!
Not only are we not grateful for the gifts we have received we refuse to accept them as gift. To do so would be to admit that our wellbeing depends on another – a relationship of dependency which threatens our total ‘freedom’. The greatest gift is the gift of our individual selves, our unique identities. Today with the growing acceptance of transgenderism we exhibit a cavalier disregard for the sacred origin of this unique gift. In the name of total freedom, we dare to ‘send back’ our gift identity so that we might choose one of our own.
Where will this unbridled liberty lead? How does a society prevent liberty from devolving into libertinage? Are we now so culturally illiterate or obstinately atheist that we ignore the doleful consequences of man’s hubris after he sought to replace God in Eden or in Babel? Where, one shudders to ask, will the ensuing eruption of barbarism manifest itself? Are the warning signs not already evident?
According to the prophet Jeremiah God has warned the Israelites: “For my people have committed two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Rejecting the ‘fountain of living water’ we build cisterns of our own which we proudly contend can hold life sustaining water we provide for ourselves. But the cisterns are cracked. Our attempts at self- sufficiency are nugatory and, in the eyes of the wiser generations who preceded us, laughable.
Let us offer thanks now that today’s pilgrims who voyage in the advance of the Kingdom need no cisterns, cracked or otherwise. Theirs is the source of living water.
On behalf of the trustees of the National Catholic Community Foundation may I wish all our readers a safe, grace filled and gratitude laden Thanksgiving.