Thanksgiving, Traditions, Gratitude, and Grace

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By Mark C McCann, Catholic Stand, 19 November AD 2018

Mark C McCannEvery year, my family and I must make one of the toughest choices ever: where to eat Thanksgiving dinner—with my siblings or with my wife’s parents. I seldom see my brothers and sisters, so it is always nice to have a McCann family mini-reunion. However, the Davinos sure know how to put together a food-filled traditional Italian Thanksgiving feast! It is a difficult pick—decisions, decisions, decisions!

Thanksgiving always reminds me of my need to look upward and offer my praise and blessing to the One who provides those great family times that fuel my growing faith. My life is a journey through triumphs and trials, steps of faith that build on the traditions and the ever-unfolding graces that come my way. As we all move along the narrow road to heaven, let us not forget to be thankful for what we have been given.

Family Traditions We Follow

We have a number of traditions we follow at Thanksgiving. For my family, we meet at my brother Tim’s, sample from a big buffet of foods my siblings bring and grab a seat around the house for beautiful recollections late into the evening. My wife’s family gathers around the extended family table to eat until we drop and laugh until we settle into a place of peace so wonderful we know we are home.

There is a realm that exists in the heavenlies where God inhabits the praise of His people, where joy fills our hearts and joins us to the grace that flows from the celestial city. When we enter those places of peace that have grown out of our traditions, we discover just how solid our faith really is. The struggles of life are no less real in those moments, but they are given a better perspective from the vantage point of the rock of refuge upon which we stand.

Being with family is as real as it gets, and I know that not all family interactions are so wonderful. There are past hurts that may remain or personal struggles that are ongoing. There is the pain of loved ones lost or family members not present. Tomorrow’s tasks will still be there for us to face. Yet, in this precious moment of solidarity and love, we find the strength—the grace—that comes from the One who has knitted our family together and ever holds us in His heart.

Feasting and Memories

God has given us all stories to share and paths to follow. As we sit with our loved ones around the banquet table and remember the past, we join our hearts to the greater story of our salvation. We recognize that we are all on a continuing journey toward our heavenly home. Our memories bring to mind the struggles we have overcome and the blessings we have been given in one another. In our laughter, we see our humanity. In our tears, we witness the divine. As we remember, we connect those who have come before and those who will come after us, for we all share the same journey.

The Thanksgiving feast is a place where the pain of our past can find revision and restoration as we heal our memories by the grace of the love we now share. It transforms us by opening our eyes to the miracles that have come our way. We look at one another and realize that our family is a great gift we have received from Jesus. Our stories help us to see the depth of the divine love that has held us together and continues to lead us forward day by day.

Being together with my family in this way helps me to hold each person in my heart. I bask in the warmth of the love we have shared in good times and bad. I discover ever-deepening understandings of just who these family members are and how much they mean to me. Our memories tie us all together and reveal the Savior who has given us purpose in our common bond. Our journeys are intimately connected because of the past we share and the future for which we all hope.

God Moments and Goodness Given

My greatest joys at Thanksgiving, however, come in the new stories we share with one another. Hearing that my niece’s new daughter is beginning to walk recalls those similar moments with my own children. Learning about the achievements of my family members—everything from violin recitals to new jobs to home projects completed—brings me contentment. Even sharing our current struggles brings us closer as we lend our strength to one another and offer hopeful prayers and healing words.

I see God’s presence in each word we speak and experience we share. His goodness lies in the reality that we are one in Him as we walk the journey together. We may not see clearly the road ahead, but we know we will make it because we have one another and we share a common faith that cannot be broken by trial or snuffed out by the world.

Like taking photographs at Thanksgiving, I know I must store up within my heart each conversation, every tender exchange and all the laughter that takes place. These are the God moments we must never miss or ever forget, the gifts of grace that pass all too quickly but become a part of who we are and what we are to one another in Christ.

Thanksgiving Gratitude and Grace

In the end, no matter where we choose to spend Thanksgiving, our family remains a vital link to the God who has made us to live and love in His name. The family is the great sign of our Savior’s love for the world and a reminder of the way in which He relates to His people of faith. This yearly celebration helps to ground me in the joyful reality of what family love is all about. I am grateful for my family members, their caring support, their wonderful spirits, and even their many flaws and failings. To me, they are a conduit of the grace that is ours because of the God who created us for gratitude.

This year, as you celebrate Thanksgiving with your family, take time to remember the past and find healing and hope in the future, to share memories and new happenings, and to bask in the joy of what it means to be grateful of heart. Give thanks to God who has placed you together on the road that leads to a wonderful heavenly home. Strive to overcome the hurts and seek the blessings that are the grace-filled inheritance of being part of a family under the care of our heavenly Father. Enjoy the feast and find peace and God’s presence in the prayers of thanksgiving you share. God bless!