Soul Food: Reflections for the Season of Thanksgiving

Soul Food: Reflections for the Season of Thanksgiving

In honor of this season of Thanksgiving, I have been sharing words and reflections about gratitude in our weekly email newsletter to my coworkers throughout November. And as we end the month, I’d like to share some of these reflections with you, our dear friends.

The month began on All Saints’ Day, and so appropriately, I looked to the words of St. Ambrose of Milan.

While eulogizing his brother, St. Satyrus, Ambrose reflected on the impermanence of our earthly existence, and gave thanks to God for His gift of eternal life, saying:

“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.”

The week leading up to Veterans Day, I shared a prayer thanking God for those who served our nation in uniform, particularly those who made the greatest sacrifice overseas for peace and freedom at home.

And the week before Thanksgiving, I quoted the German theologian Meister Eckhart who said that sincere, heart-felt prayer doesn’t need to be complicated:

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”

In our annual Thanksgiving celebrations with our young people and coworkers, I read a passage from St. Luke’s gospel (17:11-19). In the reading, Jesus meets ten lepers during his journey to Jerusalem and heals them of their terrible affliction. Only one of the ten, a Samaritan, came back and knelt at Jesus’ feet, giving thanks for the gift of new life. Jesus told the man:

“Stand up and go. Your faith has saved you.”

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, because it gives us the special opportunity to lean into gratitude, to examine it, and to discover what it can teach us.

Throughout the month, we learned from St. Ambrose that gratitude lies at the heart of our duty to God. From our prayer for veterans, we learned that gratitude lies at the heart of service. From Meister Eckhart, we learned that gratitude lies at the heart of prayer. And from St. Luke’s gospel, we learned that gratitude lies at the heart of faith.

Gratitude lies at the heart of so many important things in our lives–and certainly, it lies at the heart of this mission of God’s mercy.

Everything you do on behalf of the young men and women entrusted to Mercy Home’s care is an expression of sincere appreciation for what God has given to each of us. This is true of our donors, my coworkers, and the young people who live with us, as they perform acts of service to others, and as they support and encourage one another.

Thanksgiving reminds us to stop and express our sincere gratitude for the people and things that have blessed our lives. It reminds us that living with a grateful heart throughout the year is essential to our relationship with God. And it reminds us to use more than words to show our thanks.

These are the things that you remind me about every day, all year long, through your compassionate actions on behalf of our boys and girls.

For that I offer these two, simple words–thank you!

I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you enjoy a blessed Advent season.

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