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In the United States, the fourth Thursday of November is set aside as a day to thank God for the bountiful blessings and abundant gifts he has bestowed upon our nation. The Pilgrims, who were fleeing religious prosecution in their native England, celebrated the first thanksgiving in America in 1621, one year after arriving on the Mayflower. The tradition of celebrating a day of thanksgiving continued for many years, although inconsistently in spacing or season, until President Abraham Lincoln made it an annual national holiday in 1863.

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. (Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation)

In the midst of the good times and bad, joy and sorrow, smooth sailing and raging seas, God’s love for us endures forever. His goodness remains no matter what circumstances we may be facing in our lives. Thank God for all the good in your life and thank Him again for being with you during your trials. He loves you dearly and He is with you always. Thank Him with a grateful heart.

Perhaps no custom reveals our character as a Nation so clearly as our celebration of Thanksgiving Day. Rooted deeply in our Judeo-Christian heritage, the practice of offering thanksgiving underscores our unshakable belief in God as the foundation of our Nation and our firm reliance upon Him from Whom all blessings flow. (President Ronald Reagan, Thanksgiving Day, 1986)

God wants us to experience abundant joy in our lives. He desires to pour immense blessings on His children. Trusting in God’s boundless love and care is the path to true joy. When we experience this joy, a thankful heart is a natural result to His love and care.

In the hope of helping you to persevere on the path of fidelity to Jesus Christ, I would like to offer two brief reflections…

The first concerns the spirit of gratitude. The joy of men and women who love God attracts others to him…Joy springs from a grateful heart. Truly, we have received much, so many graces, so many blessings, and we rejoice in this. It will do us good to think back on our lives with the grace of remembrance. Remembrance of when we were first called, remembrance of the road travelled, remembrance of graces received…and, above all, remembrance of our encounter with Jesus Christ so often along the way. Remembrance of the amazement which our encounter with Jesus Christ awakens in our hearts…Let us seek the grace of remembrance so as to grow in the spirit of gratitude. Let us ask ourselves: Are we good at counting our blessings, or have we forgotten them?

A second area is the spirit of hard works. A grateful heart is spontaneously impelled to serve the Lord and to find expression in a life of commitment to our work. Once we come to realize how much God has given us, a life of self-sacrifice, of working for him and for others, becomes a privileged way of responding to his great love. (Pope Francis, Homily at Vespers, September 24, 2015, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City)

In gratitude, let us give thanks to God this day and respond to His great love through a life of self-sacrifice, working for the glory of God and the good of our families, and of the communities in which we live. Through our example of love and mercy, may others be drawn to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Wishing peace and blessings for you and your family this Thanksgiving Day!