Thanksgiving Day’s coming Thursday in the USA and many will be with family and friends. We have just come through a brutally fought election and I wonder if some Thanksgiving gatherings this year will be as peaceful as in other years. Will fights continue over the table?
Our Mass readings these days are from the Book of Revelations and Luke’s gospel where Jesus speaks of the last times. They’re frightening, upsetting times. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” (Luke 21,11)
Notice, though, the promise of peace found continually through these readings announcing chaos and destruction. “Not a hair of your head will be destroyed,” Jesus says in the gospel today. (Luke 21,19) God’s with us in the chaos.
In our Reading from Revelations today people are singing songs of victory. No matter how chaotic the times, God’s there in them, working his purpose in the chaos. The battle’s won, not lost, through the abiding power of God.
“Great and wonderful are your works,
Lord God almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
O king of the nations.” (Revelations 15, 4)
We can sit down at Thanksgiving singing a victory song and remembering that not a hair of our head will be destroyed.
I see this year on Thanksgiving Day the church celebrates the feast of the Vietnamese martyrs killed in the 18th century. Saint Andrew Dung– Lac and 117 others were put to death in a cruel persecution of Christians. One of the characteristics of Christian martyrdom is the joy of the martyr in the midst of a frightful situation. Here’s a letter of Saint Paul Le-Bao-Tinh, one of the martyrs:
“I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily, in order that you may be inflamed with love for God and join with me in his praises. The prison here is a true image of everlasting hell: to cruel tortures of every kind – shackles, iron chains, manacles – are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is for ever.
“In the midst of torments, that usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone – Christ is with me.”
“I am not alone–Christ is with me.”
I suppose we can say that no matter bad we see the times, we can sit down at Thanksgiving with joy.