Thursday, November 27, 2014


Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”  Revelation 19:9a

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.  He was a Samaritan.  Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not?  Where are the other nine?  Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”  Luke 17:15-19

(This is a portion of the proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 which set the precedent for America's first national day of Thanksgiving.)
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who [dwells] in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

In the fall of 1975, a group of fresh women and men at Belmont Abbey College took a class in “Civil Religion” taught by the late Rev. Jerome Dollard, OSB.  While the course met half of our theology requirement, it also served as an introduction to the world of ideas.  As such it was a full immersion baptism.  Thomas Merton.  Dorothy Day.  Peter Maurin.  Abraham Lincoln.  Gandhi.  Chairman Mao.  Malcolm X.  Reinhold Neibuhr. 

Thoughts of that class washed back on the shores of my memory last summer, on a visit to Mount Vernon.  The plantation home of George and Martha Washington is one of the secular sanctuaries to American idealism and leadership.  On your next visit there, in the Visitor Center, you will come across this stained glass window in the visitor’s center before you venture into the grounds and buildings of the preserved site.  Whether considering today a holiday or a holy day, we certainly revere our secular saints in a manner that rivals our reverence for the sanctified whose images grace the walls and windows of our houses of worship. 

The action of the tenth leper reminds us that we must carry our reverence into the world.  His simple and solitary act of giving thanks for being cleansed helps us to remember the reason for this day.  Notes about this reading teach us that this thanksgiving incident is narrated only in Luke’s gospel.  The Parable of the Cleansed Samaritan provides an instance of Jesus holding up a non-Jew as an example to his Jewish contemporaries.  This passage about the ten lepers is etched in my memory from the Good News that was proclaimed at the Closing Mass of the Men’s 103rd Cursillo in October 2001. Moreover, it is the faith in Jesus manifested by the thanks offered by this foreigner that has brought him salvation.

(This is a portion of the 2014 proclamation on our national day of Thanksgiving issued by the President.)

“The spirit of Thanksgiving is universal.  It is found in small moments between strangers, reunions shared with friends and loved ones, and in quiet prayers for others.  Within the heart of America's promise burns the inextinguishable belief that together we can advance our common prosperity -- that we can build a more hopeful, more just, and more unified Nation.  This Thanksgiving, let us recall the values that unite our diverse country, and let us resolve to strengthen these lasting ties.”

As you join together for fellowship with family, friends and neighbors, give thanks (like this Samaritan) for all you have received this year, express appreciation to those whose lives enrich yours, and share your bounty with others.  Also, give thanks for those who go to the aid of others (like the other famous Samaritan in scripture). 

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