What better time to show mercy and love from sea to shining sea than Thanksgiving?
What a momentous year it’s been … these months since December 8, 2015, declared a “favorable time” for the grace (and the work) of healing wounds, of offering forgiveness and reconciliation. The Holy Father wanted us to direct our actions and attention to mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s actions in our lives.
And now, we’ve come to the feast of Christ the King, and the official end of this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
But just as the Jubilee wraps up, we in the United States turn our attention to what could be considered a grand finale for the Holy Year graces. What better time to show mercy and love from sea to shining sea than Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving is the one day of the year where we pause and simply give “thanks” for all that we have, even if it is just a “little” — a job, good health, a cancer in remission, the subsiding of a three-day migraine, connecting with a long lost relative, the birth of a child, surviving a natural disaster … there are so many things that we can be thankful for. Most importantly, there is that great intangible that spreads across our nation on this day and it ties right into the culmination of the Holy Year of Mercy. That intangible is the abundance of mercy, forgiveness and love that explodes within the hearts of so many millions of people.
As I’ve worked for many years with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, I’m well aware that we humans are a merciful and generous lot at all times of the year, not just during the holidays. We’re not only capable of thinking of others’ needs, we’re downright good at it. From the St. Vincent de Paul pantry, we distribute at least twice a week the many donations of toothpastes, soaps, shampoos, feminine products and toiletries that come in. Just last week, when I brought Communion to one of our 91-year-old shut-ins, he wrote me two donation checks. “This one’s so you can buy Thanksgiving food for those who need it, Larry,” he told me as he signed the $150 note. “And this one” — of the same quantity — “for feminine products. I know women need these things.”
While our ministries are busy attending the needs of others all year long, certainly as Thanksgiving approaches, there’s a special intensity to our work. No one in America needs to go hungry on Thanksgiving Day. On this day people all across the country and from every economic situation can have a turkey dinner. Homeless shelters and soup kitchens and prisons serve turkey. All you have to do is show up, hang out, eat, and enjoy the uplifted spirit of family and friends who are with you, even if they are strangers-turned-friends you just met.
Folks who have little or no money are able to receive baskets from various charitable organizations so they can have a turkey dinner at home with their families. In my parish alone, we manage to supply complete Thanksgiving baskets to about 250 families, feeding about 1,000 people for the holiday. All of the food is donated by parishioners. Some folks donate money that is used to purchase the turkeys. In effect, virtually all the parishioners participate in the giveaway. (I am sure many of you have similar programs in or near your own parishes.)
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving we distribute the turkeys and all the trimmings to people of all denominations in our area to take home for “turkey day.” Everything has come from the hearts of parishioners and is joyfully given to strangers so they might enjoy the day. How cool is that? And doesn’t it also speak to the Holy Father’s call to evangelize?
All across the United States, Catholic parishes, churches of other denominations, soup-kitchens and shelters, etc. show Christ’s mercy and love to strangers on Thanksgiving. It is a wondrous thing and such a beautiful way to finish up the Jubilee Year of Mercy. By happy coincidence (or better said, Providence) the end of the Holy Year of Mercy has almost collided with our Thanksgiving holiday.
So as we cross the finish line of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we thank God for having allowed us to be part of such a grace-filled year. We also should thank Him for Thanksgiving … this grand finale to the Jubilee.
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