Shlegel Homily

Published in the Omaha World-Herald Nov. 27, 2008

As we gather to celebrate this Thanksgiving holiday, America is a very different country than 12 months ago. The political and economic scenes have shifted like tectonic plates, shaking our certitude, transforming our economic wellness and affecting each one of us in our own circumstance. Yet many of us are also expectant of the change that is imminent. The peaceful transition of power, even in parlous times, is an enduring symbol of the strength of the American political system. So today we give thanks, we show our gratitude to God, who amidst all of this uncertainty is a caring and loving presence for us as individuals and as a nation.

So what are we thankful for in a year of war, political change, natural disasters and a recession? We are all a little poorer, a little less sure of things, a bit more tentative about the future.

Today we are grateful for those things many of us take for granted: our health, our freedom, our families, and this beautiful and bountiful state. Each year, even a year as stressful as this one, there are new things to celebrate, new experiences, new friends and new opportunities.

Yet, I suggest we approach today’s holiday with a difference – a different tilt of the head, a deeper reaching down inside and a wary eye to the future. That is to say humility, faith and hope, which are the touchstones of this Thanksgiving.

Humility may not be our favorite virtue, but humility is the necessary disposition for this Thanksgiving Day. For we have all discovered that we are not in control of our destiny. We acknowledge we are not the masters of Wall Street, the brokers of war and peace, or the designers of weather patterns.Humility is the foundation of prayer, for we are beggars before God.

As we discover our true center is in God’s will, we grow in humility. Humility is recognition of our total dependence upon God and a readiness to use the gifts and opportunities that God sets before us to serve and to do God’s will. It is the humility of the 10 lepers in the Gospel who came to Jesus to be made clean – a humility strengthened and activated by their faith and their hope in Jesus.

The events of the past months may find some of us looking more deeply into our faith – searching for solace, comfort and meaning.

Without faith we become sterile, hopeless and afraid at our very core. Unlike fear, faith liberates, faith empowers, faith encourages, faith heals, faith rejoices in its God. As God said in the words of Isaiah, “You are indeed my people and I will become your savior in every affliction.”

Linked to faith is hope. Hope is the confidence that God will take care of us and not abandon us. On Thanksgiving Day 2008, with the tensions, insecurity and suffering all around us, we especially need hope. For as long as we have hope, we have direction, the energy to move and the map to plot our course.

Hope-filled Christian people bounce back and never give up. We live for the joys of the day, work for the goodness that will come tomorrow, and try to seize the good in every situation. With God, we know it is safe to hope. We also know that hope is far too powerful to be contained or specified by one time, one place or one goal. We hope that tomorrow will be different, better – which allows us to live more fully today, as well as in the last chapter of our life.

Let this Thanksgiving Day renew our faith in a God who is beyond our grasp, but within our reach and the object of our searching. Let our faith be in a God who is a keeper of promises and composer of grace, who works powerfully in our life. Let the hope of this Thanksgiving Day be the hope that allows us to be filled with gratitude in spite of the problems of the day. Let this confidence give voice to the prayer in our heart and place a confident trust at our very core.

Let this be a Thanksgiving that we truly “Give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits received.”

Creighton University is a Jesuit, Catholic university bridging health, law, business and the arts and sciences for a more just world.