As the liturgical year closes and we open the beginning of something new with Advent, the call to conversion becomes more imperative. Yes, there is a sense of dread when we think of the end of the world, the end of time, the second coming of Christ. There is a sense of dread when we look at our lives and how little we’ve done to respond to God’s grace and His call upon our lives. The first reading points out this terrifying realization: with all the freedom you’ve given us Lord, we’ve multiplied our transgressions and used the time you’ve given us for ourselves and haven’t given You a second thought. What’s worse, we don’t even feel remorse anymore! We cannot even shed a tear when we give in to our pride, our anger, our lusts, our focus on worldly pursuits and greed. Our hardness of heart frightens us – who will save us from our awful habit of crime? Our vices outnumber and outweigh our virtues! You have reminded us of our condition, but you have abandoned us to the things we have chosen. You give us no help against temptation because it is what we have truly desired and chosen and you are a just God who respects our freedom.
The very last day of the liturgical year we receive again the solemn warning about how we conduct ourselves throughout the time of our exile. The end of the book of Revelation offers some hopeful prophetic words about eternity, but reminds us that we must raise our minds and hearts to the mystery of Christ. Our sins and shortcomings ought to trouble us to some extent – we shouldn’t despair of course, but we should use the distress we experience, our guilt and shame, to plunge ourselves back into the merciful heart of God.
The celebration of Thanksgiving Day is valuable to our American Culture. If we celebrate this day well, it allows us to live out our Christianity and values and push back against the encroaching secularism of our time. Thanksgiving, when we pause to consider its meaning, and when we decide to open our hearts and be thankful, is a natural pathway to God. As important as the history lesson of the “first Thanksgiving” might be – and as useful as it is to firmly ground our traditional celebration – it has to be about more than Pilgrims, Indians, planting corn and eating a big meal.