Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Thanksgiving Message from Father Corapi

This Thanksgiving holiday may be the only one some of us have left, or it may be the most important one some of us will ever have. Let’s make the most of it.

From the beginning, this mostly secular holiday has had a somewhat “holyday” dimension to it. After all, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God, mostly for surviving, but surely for the food they had that helped them to survive and ultimately prosper.

Taking things for granted is an occupational hazard of the human condition. It is easy to forget that all things come from God. Whatever we have is a gift from our Father, “Who art in Heaven,” and on earth, and in every heart and mind that permits him entrance.

This Thanksgiving some of us are having our own personal struggles, and it is not as easy perhaps to be thankful. Millions of people are nowhere near as well off as they once were. The lines at the local food banks and shelters are longer than they have been in recent times many places. Those of us who are able must help those less fortunate when we can. I spent one Thanksgiving homeless, roaming the streets of Los Angeles when I was younger. I can tell you it is a cold and desolate feeling.

Some of us are mad at God this Thanksgiving. I can understand that, although it doesn’t do any good to bang your head against the rock wall of Reality. Some of us don’t have what we had last year. I know dozens of people who have lost more than 40-50% of their wealth this past year. I lost my best friend this year. I know what it is to be mad at God too, although it isn’t the right thing to do, and it certainly doesn’t help. God gave us what we had to begin with.

The Prophets got mad at God at times. They got over it, and so will we.

Some people lost wives, husbands, and children this year. I can’t imagine the depths of their suffering, but I sympathize with it. I don’t have a wife or children in the normal sense. I acquired a dog ten years ago at a very dark and painful time in my life. He saved my life when he was a puppy by giving me a reason to live. Years later he saved my life from two intruders who broke into my home early one morning. He was my best friend for years. He died tragically from cancer a couple of weeks ago. He bled to death internally and died as I held him on the examination table of the veterinary clinic. He was scared and could hardly breathe as he looked into my eyes.

I was mad at God for taking the only real friend I had for many years; the only one I lived with and could be close to through many dark and troubling years. He was always the same, day in and day out. He loved me unconditionally, and every morning he greeted me as though he hadn’t seen me for years, although he slept on the same bed that I did every night of the ten years he was with me.

It’s hard to lose things, harder to lose what we love. Yet, it was God who gave us these things from the beginning. I remember that there were over 3,000 sunrises and sunsets that I spent with Sage. He loved to walk with me anyplace we went. He loved to swim more than anything else. He was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and it was in his genes to be that way. He was loyal and he was loving, and he is gone, but I am thankful to God for the years He gave me to live with Sage. He always slept with one back leg over my ankle, as though he wanted to keep track of me through the night. He liked to watch football games on television, and sat next to me on the sofa with one paw draped over my leg.

He would often steal my shoes or socks and race joyously through the house and prance and dance until I told him to hand them over, which he always did as though it was his highest and happiest mission in life.

Loss is hard, but sometimes it is only in loss that we realize what we’ve had, the greatness of the gift and how much it has contributed to our life. It’s easy to give thanks when everything goes well. It’s easy to love when all is comfortable. It’s the highest and best thanks and love when we can do it from a place of loss. Be thankful for what you have, and for what you had, even if it was only for a little while, for as a wise man said, “Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”

So, this Thanksgiving let’s be thankful indeed for all we have, and for all we’ve had. It is all evidence of the love and care of God our Father.

Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving,

Fr. John Corapi

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