As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday a traditional American adage comes to mind: Count your blessings.
This may have originated during the great depression, but perhaps it is much older, for it is always true. The fact is that most people born in this country after WWII have no idea of what hard times are like. The fact is that for most of the history of this country it was a daily struggle for food, clothing and shelter for many people. There was no social safety net. In those days neighbors relied on neighbors as a true lifeline, many being without family, having left there homes in search a better life. Today we are so confident in our well being that most of us have no idea who our neighbors are.
To get through those hard times was not only a tremendous physical challenge, but also a psychological and emotional challenge. If someone only thought about what they lacked, they could easily fall into despair and perish. Some certainly did. But those who focused on what they did have and in this way deflected their want, their hunger, their desperation, then they eased the pain and trusted in God for a better tomorrow, which most did find.
Today it is a bit different. We, too, focus all too often on what we do not have. But not due to hunger or poverty. The materialistic and consumeristic society in which we live constantly deluges us with images of things which we “need”, so that we can think - as many do - that we lack despite our abundance. Materially, few people need anything. The basics of life: food, shelter, employment or financial assistance, are available to all, mostly through the state, which is not necessarily a good thing, not because the needy are not being helped, but because we don’t readily understand that is our responsibility, or shall I say opportunity, to step in and share the blessings which God has given us.
If we count our blessing we will realize how God has blessed and cares for us and offer Him a true Thanksgiving, not once a year, but daily.
Despite the material well being of this country, it is in fact quite impoverished. The vast majority of people, including - perhaps especially - those who consider themselves to be believers, lack the one thing needful: our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life. This is why we must be thankful: for the economy of our salvation (all that is done for our salvation - the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Second Coming).
Why do we not weep when we see the Cross? Because of our attachment to this world. Why do we hesitate to help others who may ask for a few dollars, judging their intentions or condemning their condition, despite knowing nothing of their lives nor beholding their hearts? Is it not because we don’t want to give what we have, being so attached to it, being assured by it, relying on our own supposed wealth, such as it is, instead of trusting that God will provide for our needs should we give, even if it is only from our abundance?
Let us beloved, be thankful to God, on Thanksgiving Day and every day. Let us remember all the mercies He bestows upon us, all that He has done for us men and for our salvation, all that He provides for us. Let us be thankful for our family, our friends and, most of all, for our Church and our Orthodox Faith, the pearl of great price. The grace given to us at Baptism and Chrismation is greater than any glory in this world. And what can I say about the Divine Mystery of Christ, the Holy Eucharist? Does not the word eucharist mean Thanksgiving? Our life can and should be Thanksgiving, offering ourselves in thanksgiving to the Lord God who offered Himself for us.
Let us count our blessings and give thanks to the Lord.