November 21: Give Thanks for Shelter
Yes, the snap of cold in the air certainly does mean that the carefree, warm days of summer are gone. It's time to break out the sweaters, mittens and coats (for which we have already given thanks).
For those of us who live in hot climates most of the year, the dip in temperature is really an event. To have a break from the sweltering heat is truly a cause for celebration. We walk around with a turtleneck and sweater and ask each other "Are you enjoying the cold? Stay warm!"
The cold weather sends us inside, seeking warmth and shelter. We know that shelter is vital to survival, yet I, for one, don't give thanks that I have shelter over my head each night. I usually just assume I will. And we don’t want just any shelter either. We expect a shelter that is comfortable, pleasant and well-decorated. A shelter we are pleased to invite friends into, a place where we can rest, study and grow.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says ”Jerusalem! Jerusalem! …How many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling.” (Mt 23:37) Jesus reminds us that ultimately, he is our shelter. In this shelter, we can rest, study, grow and become the people we most want to be.
Pray: We give thanks, O Lord, for this change in temperature, reminding us of our need for shelter. Help us to remember that you are our shelter. Amen.
November 22: Give Thanks for Creation
Ponder: It is especially easy to give thanks for the natural world at this time of year, because it is so stunning. Everywhere we look, we see the handiwork of God, and the built in reflection of Beauty.
From sunrises to sharks, from dogs to bluebirds, from waterfalls to mountain tops and meadows, all creation “proclaims the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1) Which part of God’s creation are you most grateful for?
Pray: We give thanks, O Lord, for the beautiful world you have created for us. May we see your reflection in everything you make. Amen.
November 23: Give Thanks for Roots
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. As we think ahead about traveling to our family homes or reuniting with friends who are like family, let's give thanks for the roots - the lives of those who have gone before us and influenced us - that have given us stability and depth. These roots have grounded us and allowed us to grow. We could not have become the leaves or even branches of these trees without the support of the roots that nourished and nurtured us. These roots include your own family, good mentors and friends who have guided you, as well as other voices like the saints. Ultimately, all these roots, if they point us to Truth, are from God.
Ponder: Br. Jonah Teller, O.P., a young Dominican friar, expresses this thought eloquently in his post on the Domincanajournal.org website. (https://www.dominicanajournal.org/roots/) He writes:
"A tree’s fruit should reveal the quality of its root. What a man says and does should reveal the quality of his heart. The root of a righteous act is a heart converted to God. Rooted like this, one’s heart knows God, loves him, acts with him in mind…the fruits follow the roots. Almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, for example, proclaim a clean heart given to love of God and love of neighbor. They say, ‘My roots are firm and deep in the Lord. I am planted beside living water.’
Displaying what looks to be the fruit of good roots without those roots is the definition of hypocrisy. It's showing an external without the healthy internal. To present the world with a fruit that does not correspond to the roots is to lie to them about the relationship with God.
God doesn’t look first at fruits. He looks at the roots. He can see what is hidden. The life we are to live, then, is hidden with God. The life in our inner room, with the door closed, is a life that cannot be faked. There is no one else to see it but me and the Lord.
Much of the life of a tree is quiet, hidden, in secret. This is the part that is important, that is vital, stabilizing and nourishing the rest of the tree, enabling it to bear fruit. This happens underground, unseen by man but seen by God.
Jesus, Lord of our life, send our roots rain."
Pray: We give thanks, O Lord, for all those people who have helped establish the roots of our lives, who have given us strength, stability and purpose. We pray that we are continually nourished and sustained, so that we may bear good fruit. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Give Thanks for the Greatest Gift of All
Ponder: Sunday was the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. He is, of course, the greatest gift we have been given and his friendship is one of the best things we can hope to receive. Every one of the 23 items that came before today were gifts from him, through him all things were made. Additionally, through the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus remains with us personally, physically. In fact, the word “Eucharist” itself is Greek for “thanksgiving,” or “praise for the wonderful works of God,” reminding us that Jesus Christ and his saving action is the biggest and best gift we could ever receive. In recognition of this, how appropriate an attitude of thanksgiving is. It should indeed accompany us all day today.
The Collect Prayer at Mass from Sunday sums it up well:
Almighty ever-living God, whose will it is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of the universe, grant, we pray, that the whole creation, set free from slavery, may render your majesty service and ceaselessly proclaim your praise. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Just imagine what the world would look like if the whole of creation were set free from slavery. That bears thinking about. The great reminder of this day is that this very experience of freedom will take place when the Kingdom of God comes in its fullness. We can look forward to the kingship of Christ as the time when the lion will lie down with the lamb. The kingdom of peace, harmony and freedom, all lived out in the fullness of time and the fullness of Truth. This is the kingdom that we are invited into, through friendship with Jesus Christ.
Pray: We give thanks, O Lord, to you for inviting us to share in your kingdom and for already imperfectly sharing in your kingdom now. We pray that your kingdom may be on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen.