November 20, 2021 Essay: Make Us Worthy of Your Blessing

Nov 17, 2021

This week we will celebrate our national day of giving thanks for the blessings of nature’s bounty. On Thanksgiving Day, we will gather with family and friends and enjoy a festive meal that will be prepared and served according to a rhythm of beloved family traditions. We will reminisce about Thanksgivings past; we will recall with affection and sorrow in our hearts those no longer at the table with us; and we will allow ourselves to pause and reflect on the blessings that truly matter. Let our prayer be that we are worthy of them.

November is also the month that our nation celebrates Native American Heritage Month. It is a time to recall and honor the cultures, traditions, and languages of the Indigenous peoples of North America. I suspect that most of us will be challenged in knowing how to observe this month of celebration of peoples who remain unfamiliar to us, Indigenous peoples who were faithful stewards of the land we boldly claim as our birthright. Perhaps it is time for us to come to know our sisters and brothers native to this land and learn from them what it means to be truly thankful and acknowledge our responsibility to be worthy of the blessings of harvest time.

Scott Momaday, a member of the Kiowa tribe, is an internationally acclaimed poet, novelist, teacher, and storyteller. Among his writings is a prayer that I hope will illumine our way to celebrate and observe both Thanksgiving Day and Native American Heritage Month.

Great Mystery, you who dwell in the endless beyond, you who spoke the first word and made your breath the mountains and the waters, the trees and the grasses, the man and the woman and the child, hear me in my small voice. I am your thankful creature. My people and all the birds and animals are your thankful creatures. Hold us! Hold us in your hands, and make us worthy of your blessing. Tell us the old stories of your greatness, that our minds and our hearts may be nourished with wonder and delight. Let us see your likeness in the stars, and let us hear your voice in rolling thunder and in the wind and rain.  Be with us forever in the sacred smoke of your being. These are my words, my offering to you, Great Mystery.  (Earth Keeper, Reflections of the American Land, 2020.)

What beautiful words to nourish our souls on Thanksgiving Day, during the month of November, and throughout our lives! May we always reverence the gift of God’s creation by honoring all peoples of every land and race, and by caring for the very reflections of God in the world, most notably, as Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, our common home, the planet Earth itself. Let us no longer be held captive by the shameful ways of the past. Let our prayer be that we are worthy of God’s blessing and walk now and into the future as faithful stewards of all that God has created and lavishly bestowed on all peoples of the earth throughout every generation. Happy Thanksgiving!

– Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J., Pastor