Thanksgiving: Generosity with justice
I just sat down to write this Thanksgiving reflection and every word that immediately popped into my head begins with the letter f — family, feast, football, friends, forgotten.
The only one that startled me was “forgotten”; where did that come from?
Giving it a little thought, however, it’s not a surprising “free association” to make with our nation’s observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.
How many of us can remember a Thanksgiving when we haven’t participated in a food drive; helped out at Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless or those who find themselves alone; or provided money for food or assembled or distributed Thanksgiving baskets for those in need of attention and care? For most of us, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving unless we remembered our responsibility to those whose circumstances relegate them to the margins, the edges of society. These are the ones who so often feel and are “forgotten.”
It says much for our character as a people of the United States that an almost automatic response to giving thanks is to share with those whose needs are greater than our own. The promptings to respond in this manner come, I think, from the spirit of generosity very much a part of our national spirit and identity.
Perhaps, this Thanksgiving holiday, we could pray that our generous acts would also stem from a practice of the virtue of justice — of according to each what is the right of each.
Practicing the virtue of justice would extend our gestures of generosity to include actions directed toward eradicating all our plaguing “-isms”: racism, ageism, sexism, classism. Our generous outreach with food would extend into actions designed to end violence in our city’s families, schools and neighborhoods as well as in other countries. Our acts of generous justice would include an approach to immigration based on the human dignity of all persons and not built on fear, stereotypes or greed. The list goes on and on … .
In other words, we could use this observance of the Thanksgiving holiday to remind ourselves that generosity without justice may not be what Jesus calls us to live. Generosity with justice, it seems to me, connects us to the heart of the message of Jesus.
Let us pray for one another and with one another the opening prayer from A Mass for Thanksgiving Day:
your gifts of love are countless
and your goodness infinite.
On Thanksgiving Day we come before you
with gratitude for your kindness;
open our hearts to concern for our fellow women and men,
so that we may share your gifts in loving service.