Thanksgiving, to be truly thanksgiving, is first thanks, then giving.

We are not as rooted to the soil as the first colonists who settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. Thus we tend to think of our food supply in terms of the local supermarket. We find it difficult to understand the terrifying words of the prophet Jeremiah: “If the harvest fails; there is no hope.” Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recall that our life as a nation depends on the rich soil that spans the continent of the United States. This soil is our life; and life is God’s greatest gift to us.

The fact that you and I are alive at all right now, at this particular moment, is an incredible long shot. Be thankful! The odds against the flame of life reaching us were astronomical. Countless strains and branches of the human family ended in cul-de-sacs; victims of war, pestilence and natural disasters. Yet, the small flame of life passed through numberless hands in uncountable generations until now it flickers in us. This irreplaceable day of thanksgiving is a day to rejoice in the gift of life; in the wonders of the world around us: the ever changing sky, the chirping of birds, the warm love of families and friends; the life-giving soil of mother earth; and the precious gift of faith.

Let us respect our land; our lives; our environment; and our farmers and farm workers who work in the fields to put food on our tables. Let us respect and reach out to those who are in need, also. In spite of the abundance that Americans enjoy, poverty is on the rise. Nearly thirty six million Americans and one in five children, live below the poverty line. One in eight Americans struggle to find affordable housing; they split their medications in half and work more than one job to make ends meet. The devastation caused by the national and international monetary crisis has caused even more people to enter the ranks of poverty, here and abroad.

Should these statistics and calamities lead us to lose hope? No way! The lesson to be learned from the first pilgrims who settled this land and who were given food by the native Indians is that there is always enough when people are willing to share. Life is so much better when people are thankful, and are willing to share. That is the lesson of the miracle of the loaves and fishes in the Gospel. It is the message of Thanksgiving Day.

May this day be a day to give thanks and share with one another.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Fr. Hugh Duffy

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