Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 10, 2005
Celebrate Thanksgiving daily
Thanksgiving is not a religious feast. But it should be a core part of any religious way of life. We can hardly pass by the feast of Thanksgiving without reflecting on the act of thanksgiving as an essential part of our Christian life.
Traditionally, Thanksgiving in North America has been a time to give thanks for the fruits of the harvest, the fact that we have lived another year with God guiding and protecting us through the vicissitudes of life.
North Americans have celebrated this holiday with a great feast - the meat of a bird or other animal combined with the produce of the garden and of nature. We celebrate by offering prayers of thanks to the Creator who made this possible.
More than the things we enjoy and which make for a good life, life itself is a gift; all creation is a gift.
Our act of thanksgiving can hardly be confined to one day a year, or one day a week. The only proper response is to breathe thanksgiving out of every pore, all year long.
To breathe thanksgiving means to bear fruit. Just as the seeds we planted in the garden in May produce fruit hundreds of times greater in size mere months later, so should the seed of one's life.
This results in a very different approach to Christian living than the fulfillment of duties and obligations. Of course, it is much better to fulfill one's duties than to ignore them. But if life consists of no more than carrying out one's duties then it is a rather barren life.
The saints were sinners, of course. They violated the negative precepts of the law, becoming, at times, angry or greedy or engaging in other vices. But they saw their sins and repented. More than that, however, their lives were fruitful. Their lives were proactive, marked by initiative. They did not leave the world unchanged; they introduced something new, a new thing filled with charity.
This new thing did not come from fulfilling a duty, but by initiative inspired and supported by the Holy Spirit. Their lives bore abundant fruit with the help of the Master Gardener.
We still talk of "holy days of obligation." This is an oxymoron. It betrays a minimalist approach to faith. Holiness does not spring from obligation, but from an expansive love. We should perhaps instead talk of "holy days of fruitfulness" or "holy days of celebration" or "holy days of thanksgiving."
What are the pinnacles of human living? They include friendship, courage, love and faith. Friendship is good precisely because it arises out of freedom, not out of duty. We admire courage because it goes beyond any obligation that one has. Love would not be love if it were imposed by an obligation. The same is true of faith.
If we are to be true followers of Christ, we must enter into this expansive, fruitful way of life that goes far beyond duty. Look at the life of Jesus and try to find him carrying out his duties. There are small examples of him doing so. But what entranced the Gospel writers were the healings, the miracles, the teachings and the self-sacrifice that went far beyond the realm of obligation. And which called us to do the same.
Ultimately, we have the possibility of salvation because Jesus offered his life for that salvation. If he had been obliged to do so, it would have brought no salvation.
When God asked humanity to "Go forth and multiply," we took that as a command to expand the number of people. But is it not also a call to be spiritually fruitful? Is it not a statement that to be fully human, each person must give birth to something greater than oneself? That the seed must grow into the plant, flower radiantly and produce the fruit that allows others to live?
True thanksgiving is not a one-time act, a once-a-year celebration. It is an open-ended engagement with life, an act that goes beyond the here and now. It leads who knows where. But it is abundantly fruitful.
- Glen Argan
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