(A Reflection for Thanksgiving)
There was no altar server at our Mass for Thanksgiving Day at St. Columba this morning, and when I saw Roland Escalante, an active parishioner, holding the processional cross, I said (half jokingly), " Jun, take up your cross and follow Jesus." "Yes, and He did not say, 'Take up your pillow and come follow Me.'" was his quick reply.
That was an unexpected Thanksgiving grace for me. I never heard the truth of Our Lord's words expressed that way before. But it is a great way to paraphrase it. And I thanked Roland for saying it.
Last Sunday, when I brought Holy Communion to a sick parishioner, I saw a poster on his door showing the classic horn of plenty containing, pumpkins, corn and various fruits and vegetables with the caption: "Enjoy the Harvest. Happy Thanksgiving!"
St. Columba Church was full of people this morning thanking God for the gifts and blessings they have received and are still receiving. I suppose they were for material goods, successful careers, family and friends, answered prayers, etc.
But there are other things, situations and events in our lives that we probably do not recognize as blessings at all. Like pain and suffering, even persecution for His sake, and acts we perform to live our Faith that involves effort and time. The invitation by Jesus to us is not "Take up your pillow and follow Me" but "Take up your cross and follow Me." It is the invitation to holiness, to union with God.
The pillow will not bring us to heaven. It is the cross that will. Sickness and pain (like cancer, chronic illnesses and other health issues, etc.) accepted in faith and offered in union with the sufferings and pain Our Lord Jesus endured for our sake, are meritorious for us. If we offer them for the good of others, they are not wasted suffering. They make us like Him and closer to Him. They are all opportunities for grace. As He rose only after suffering and dying, so must we die to self before we rise in Him.
At Thanksgiving we thank Our dear Lord for giving us, not only pillows but also crosses. We can share with others our pillows, and we can help others carry their crosses.
The greatest blessing we can ever receive from God is the grace in this life that will bring us to eternal life!! That is what we need to ask for . . . and to thank for . . . not only on Thanksgiving Day . . . but everday!!