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Thanksgiving: An attitude for the whole Holiday Season

Fr. Joel God & Faith

Deuteronomy 8:6-20 (RNAB)

Therefore, keep the commandments of the LORD, your God, by walking in his ways and fearing him. For the LORD, your God, is bringing you into a good country, a land with streams of water, with springs and fountains welling up in the hills and valleys, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, of olive trees and of honey, a land where you will always have bread and where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones contain iron and in whose hills you can mine copper. But when you have eaten and are satisfied, you must bless the LORD, your God, for the good land he has given you.
Be careful not to forget the LORD, your God, by failing to keep his commandments and ordinances and statutes which I enjoin on you today: lest, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built fine houses and lived in them, and your herds and flocks have increased, your silver and gold has increased, and all your property has increased, you then become haughty of heart and forget the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that house of slavery; he guided you through the vast and terrible wilderness with its saraph serpents and scorpions, its parched and waterless ground; he brought forth water for you from the flinty rock and fed you in the wilderness with manna, a food unknown to your ancestors, that he might afflict you and test you, but also make you prosperous in the end.
Otherwise, you might say in your heart,“It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has got me this wealth.” Remember then the LORD, your God, for he is the one who gives you the power to get wealth, by fulfilling, as he has now done, the covenant he swore to your ancestors.
But if you do forget the LORD, your God, and go after other gods, serving and bowing down to them, I bear witness to you this day that you will perish utterly. Like the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so shall you too perish for not listening to the voice of the LORD, your God.

“You didn’t build that” was one of the phrases that went viral this campaign season. President Obama said it during a speech on July 13, 2012 in Roanoke, Virginia. Republicans jumped on it as a way to attack Democrats. The actual quote went like this:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. [WikiPedia, YouTube]

Basically, the President is saying that success depends on so much more than your own brains and hard work. Your success also depends on other people in your life and the excellent American system. I happen to agree with the President, but I would go further:

If you have this unbelievable American system of government and roads and bridges, you didn’t build that. Someone else created the land “from sea to shining sea”. Someone else filled our world with the plans and animals that you feast upon. Someone else made the natural resources that we use, the sun that grows the crops, the free fresh air we take for granted. Someone else gave us our lives, and the gifts and talents we have used to succeed. Mr. President – you didn’t build that.

We can forget where our blessings truly come from. In the Scripture quote above, God is telling the Isrealites, “You didn’t build that.” He says: After I have done so much for you, given you the land and been successful, do not forget me and say: “It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has got me this wealth.” This seems to have happened to America. We have been so blessed by God with so much prosperity and success that we have come to take it for granted. And yet we have forgotten to be Thankful to the One who gave us all these things. I think it is no accident that our holiday season begins with Thanksgiving. Let’s make that attitude last.  Too soon we rush off to the stores to buy gifts that people don’t need and forget to be thankful for what we already have. If we truly think about the Birth of Jesus, the Christmas spirit really is a spirit of Thanksgiving. Let’s make Giving Thanks the new holiday spirit.