By Father Casey

This Thanksgiving is going to be different.

It’s not just that the gatherings will be different. In that regard, I beg you to listen to the advice of the CDC and refrain from gathering with those who aren’t already a part of your home.[1] I know this may be a bitter concession in a year filled with painful sacrifices, but please don’t let your guard down with this virus, because it doesn’t care how much you love the people you’re with. It will spread and sicken and kill.

Thanksgiving will also be different, because thankfulness just feels harder to come by this year. 250,000 people will forever be absent from Thanksgiving tables, and perhaps that includes yours. Millions are struggling to find work, pay the bills, feed their family, or simply climb out of bed in the morning. It’s been a long, hard year, and the light at the end of the tunnel continues to feel pretty far away.

And yet, in the midst of all the difference and difficulty, in spite of that long shadow of sickness and separation that lingers over our world, we can still be thankful. And in fact, I would say, it is imperative that we do so. All our grief and frustration can calcify our hearts if we’re not careful. They will harden into bitterness, which will shrink our spirits, weaken our faith, and draw us from the love of God.

But gratitude is like spiritual angioplasty. It opens up the clotted pathways of our hearts and enables the lifeblood of the Spirit to flow freely within us. Gratitude, scientists say, has power to reshape our physiology, lessening blood pressure, aiding sleep, and improving mental health. It is essential that we deploy this potent and godly medicine in the face of all the forms of sickness that threaten our wellbeing.

So today, I went for a bike ride, and I spent that time pondering all the things for which I’m thankful. As I rode along, it almost felt like a litany of thankfulness, which I share with you

I’m thankful for my wife and girls.

I’m thankful for my health and home.

I’m thankful for the faith and patience of the people of Transfiguration.

I’m thankful for all the heroes in our hospitals and schools.

I’m thankful for everyone who wears a mask in public places.

I’m thankful for teachers, who are asked to do so much more than simply teach.

I’m thankful for people who dedicate their lives to the poorest and most vulnerable among us, including Rob Radtke, President of Episcopal Relief and Development, who will be our preacher this weekend.

I’m thankful that this was the most secure election in our nation’s history, and for a system of laws that ensure the will of the people is obeyed.[2]

I’m thankful for people who accept defeat graciously.

I’m thankful for valiant seekers of justice and truth.

I’m thankful for people who admit when they are wrong and try to change.

I’m thankful for the beauty of natural places where my soul has been restored.

I’m thankful for those who work hard to protect natural places so my grandchildren will be able to experience them, too.

I’m thankful for Zoom.

I’m thankful for messages of encouragement from parishioners that came at just the right moments.

I’m thankful for The Great British Baking Show.

I’m thankful for my bicycle.

I’m thankful for the monarch butterfly migration.

I’m thankful for brewed beverages of all sorts.

It’s a start, what I could think of in a fairly short amount of time, but I will keep up this meditation upon those things for which I’m thankful throughout this coming week.

I wonder what’s on your list? What are you thankful for, my friends? Ponder those blessings, and pray in thanksgiving. God knows how to answer that prayer by softening the hard places in your heart. And if there’s one thing the world needs right now, it’s a few more softened hearts.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/thanksgiving.html

[2] https://www.cisa.gov/news/2020/11/12/joint-statement-elections-infrastructure-government-coordinating-council-election