This is a weekend full of loosely related but very important events and themes in our lives. It’s Thanksgiving weekend, a time for family and food, football and fun, but this weekend also brings “Black Friday” sales, the kick-off of the secular Christmas holiday season. With Thanksgiving so early this year there’s still over a month until Christmas Day. It’s a time of transition from turkeys and pumpkins to Santas and snowmen. Some will greet this weekend with enthusiasm, others with dread, and still others just sit back and wait for the storm to pass and Monday to bring back some routine and sanity to life and family.
Liturgically it’s a strange time as well. Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday but certainly has religious overtones. This weekend marks the conclusion of Ordinary Time – it is the last Sunday of the Church year – with the Solemnity in honor of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. We’re thinking Christmas, but Advent won’t even start for another week!
With all this commotion, there is really a great unity amongst the themes and celebrations both religious and secular. The Church proclaims with renewed enthusiasm that Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe. We are not ashamed or afraid to profess our faith in this truth. Jesus is the Savior of the human race. His Passion, Death and Resurrection are the only remedy to human sinfulness. Only Jesus can reconcile us to His Father by the power of the Holy Spirit. Truth certainly exists in religions outside the Catholic Church, Christian and non-Christian, but the source of that truth is Jesus Himself whether those faiths know Him and His Church or not. This solemnity fills us with thanksgiving for the gift of faith we have received. There is nothing pompous or triumphal in our celebration nor is there anything exclusive about this truth. We rejoice that God has loved us enough to send us His Only-Begotten Son as our Savior and Lord. We are thirsty to hear His Gospel that teaches us how to experience the fullness of life and attain eternal life.
It is very easy to take even the most cherished people and essential things in our lives for granted. Like children we need to be reminded to say “please” and “thank you” and “I love you.” A simple custom like Grace Before Meals can help us to be attentive to the necessity of gratitude for the food we eat. Good health, material possessions, nature, family and friends are all things we should be constantly thankful for. Sadly it’s often when these things are gone that we realize how much we should have appreciated them. This extended holiday weekend is the perfect time to count our blessings (as the cliche goes) and to acknowledge that all blessings are rooted in God’s providential care for us. While we often complain that God doesn’t hear our prayers or give us what we think we need, 99% of the time those complaints are directed at matters concerning life here and now. Sin is the only thing that can destroy our soul and Jesus offers us salvation. Life here on earth ends but Jesus offers us eternal life. Certainly our concerns about life here and now are real. Some people suffer terribly in a whole host of ways and Jesus, Who carried His Cross and suffered, is with us each step of the way. His royal authority, however, is not exercised in taking away our problems, but in giving us the strength to reign with Him as thankful members of His royal family.