This Thanksgiving can be more than a family sitting around a table of turkey, whether it’s a happy gathering, a dysfunctional group or something in between.
Thanksgiving can be an opportunity to heal the breaches between our brothers and sisters while we feast together. It can also be an opportunity to begin the healing of our nation’s divisions. Gratitude and thanksgiving, combined with forgiveness and lovingkindness, are the keys to this healing.
Thousands of years ago writers told of of these opportunities. In the Bible’s book of Genesis we read about many cases of serious family discord and its remarkable resolution.
Jacob and his brother Esau, for example, were reconciled after years of bitterness and guilt over one’s mistreatment of the other. Jacob had stolen his brother’s inheritance and then fled. Furious, Esau vowed to kill him. After years apart they met, kissed and forgave each other. The formerly guilty Jacob offered Esau a generous present, but his brother kindly said, “Keep it all, my brother. I have enough.”
What had happened? Jacob had fought a significant battle with his deceptive tendencies during the years of estrangement. Finally he found, through an angel inspiration that roused his spiritual senses, a more authentic identity. One based on unselfishness. Even his name was changed to reflect this shift. Instead of Jacob “the usurper,” he was now Israel, or “soldier of God” because he’d fought hard for this new sense of himself– and won.
Jacob now saw his brother Esau in a new light: not as vengeful but as “the face of God” who was pleased with him. The healing of divisions had taken place and they were reconciled.
Much later Jacob’s favorite son Joseph was to forgive his jealous brothers after they sold him into slavery and presumed he was dead. Never yielding to resentment or hatred, Joseph made a good life in his new land of Egypt, even serving the Pharaoh as chief adviser. His plan to store up crops during years of plenty saved Egypt from starvation during lean years.
By this time Joseph had much to be grateful for. He later had the opportunity to bless his brothers with food and provisions when they came to him for help during the famine in Israel, not realizing who he was. With tears of emotion at seeing them again, Joseph finally revealed his identity to his brothers. He forgave them for their cruelty and invited them and their father Jacob to move near him so he could look after the family for the rest of their lives. He told them it was God’s purpose that he had undergone all these challenges in order to save the lives of both his family and his nation.
Christ Jesus counseled us, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” In the late 1800’s Christian healer Mary Baker Eddy saw the importance of this line of the Lord’s Prayer. “And Love is reflected in love” she wrote (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures). Understanding our obligation to live our gratitude, the ancient psalmist sang, “Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call on me in the day of trouble: and I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me.” (Ps.50: 14-15)
We can forgive. Because we have so many blessings from God, we can afford to be generous toward others. We can bring peace,–the healing of divisions— to the Thanksgiving table and to our nation. As St Paul put it,
“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” (Colossians 3: 15)
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL.
(Please note: we will return after November 29)