By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
One of the most anticipated holidays in America is Thanksgiving. The fourth Thursday of November every year (and its accompanying weekend) is eagerly anticipated, not only because it is a holiday set aside for a day called Thanksgiving Day, but also because it gives the opportunity for many people to rest and be with family or friends for a long weekend. And, of course, the sales euphoria of Black Friday adds to that fun. I like the spirit of Thanksgiving and the joy the weekend brings to so many.
I have come to perceive the Thanksgiving holiday as both a spiritual and a secular holiday. Of course, it is not a religious holiday, and it is celebrated by everyone, regardless of religious affiliation or non-affiliation. And when I say the holiday is spiritual, I mean that spirituality is not a word restricted to any one religion. But in terms of Christianity, I perceive Thanksgiving Day as a spiritual holiday, because we don’t only celebrate the “no work” holiday or the hustle and bustle of Black Friday, but we also use the opportunity to worship in thanksgiving for the many blessings we have received. We Catholics have a liturgy for Thanksgiving, and Catholic churches celebrate the Eucharist as the ultimate representation of our Thanksgiving. This is for me, above all else, the most cherished part of the holiday. We thank God every day, but setting aside a day for a special time of thanksgiving makes it even more special and brings out the need to recognize what God is doing in our lives every day. I admonish all Catholics to mark this day with participation in the Eucharist where possible. When we deliberately and consciously keep the spiritual side of the holiday and participate in church worship, we make our Thanksgiving even more of a “Thank You” to God.
The secular aspect of the holiday is also very important and meaningful. The fact that families come together, and many travel long distances to connect and to share a common meal, is a clear expression of gratitude for God’s gift of love, family and friends. It is very important for families and friends to come together in recognition of the many blessings they have received. Such coming together of people that share a commonality also makes Thanksgiving a “Thank You” moment to the Almighty.
Remembering our many blessings, let us keep the spirit of Thanksgiving alive after the Thanksgiving Day holiday ends. Let family members stay in touch even after Thanksgiving; let friends keep the lines of communication open beyond Thanksgiving; let people find time to visit and share meals together even after Thanksgiving is past. When the spirit, the joy and the togetherness that are exhibited on Thanksgiving Day continue among family members, friends, and community, our Thanksgiving becomes a “Thank You” to one another and to God, who has given us the gift of family, friends, and community.
Unfortunately, many family members have lost connection with one another; the spirit of checking on and talking to one another, the spirit of eating together, the spirit of sharing stories and moments of life have eluded many of us. In a busy world like ours, it is easy to ignore or forget the important things in life that bring people together. The spirit of Thanksgiving should always remind us about the need to keep in touch with our loved ones. It is this spirit that makes Thanksgiving truly become a “Thank You” for our existence. Let our togetherness go beyond our Thanksgiving Day routine. Let it continue all year round, thus making every day a “Thank You” Day.
Father Jacob Dankasa is the pastor of Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church in Irving.