Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Frequently by now we hear, “Let’s face it: 2020 is a bad year.” Often we say it ourselves.
So Thanksgiving arrives. Those who gather defy the advice of our health care leadership. Indeed, they risk their health and lives as well as those of loved ones. Those who do not gather improvise love through Zoom. While it works, it feels watered down.
We reflect on a year of pandemic, the first in a little over 100 years. Infections and death rates continue rising. Furthermore, the pandemic exposed racial inequities and other social injustices. Minority groups suffered more due to crowded living environments and overrepresentation among essential workers. Meanwhile, police shootings of African-Americans and mass incarceration fell under the spotlight shone by protesters and social media videos.
The economy slid, unemployment rose, and economic insecurity engulfed all but the wealthiest elite. Political polarization diminished rational dialogue and action to solve these problems, as wearing masks and affirming that black lives matter met denial rather than common cause.
The president who presided over this mess of calamities clearly lost the election. He responded by contesting it legally every way he could. Worse, he delayed the peaceful transfer of power, prompting further polarization and anxiety.
So give thanks for what? The listing above does not include the personal losses many of us suffered leading up to Thanksgiving 2020. Yet, neither does it include the gains and blessings. Some, after all, fell in love, gave birth, cut a profit, spent more time with families, or made better friends with themselves. Those who practice daily gratitude listing likely continued to find several blessings in each day.
Most will approach Thanksgiving 2020 as a reprieve from 2020 problems, escaping into traditions old and improvised. Who can blame them? No one should feel guilty about that.
Yet, I want to suggest an alternative because nothing can backfire quite like repressing pain. You might have to do this alone, or better yet, in prayer. Search for intimations of God in the strife and affliction. After all, Christians gather around a cross just as they gather around a table. Christian hope begins with contemplation of that horror that seems the most logical cause for despair, except…..
Except that God refused to remain remote and untouched by human strife and affliction and chose to meet us in it. We most often recognize in retrospect the divine presence and work amid suffering. Since Thanksgiving invites grateful remembrance, consider reflecting on the godforsaken experiences and, using Christ as the paradigm (Philippians 2:5-11), remember God there.
In other words, consider bringing a little Easter into Thanksgiving 2020. For God is doing something good through all the bad of 2020. Turn your 2020 trials over to God, not to deny them, but to discern at least a foretaste of the blessings God is cooking up for you and yours.
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Coronavirus and Your Spiritual Life: More Than Coping
Gratitude and Grief Together At the Table
Thanksgiving Every Day
Indeed, what a year! And indeed, what an awesome God who lets us experience our choices but always with the grace to awaken to the consequences and seek with humility greater unity with a merciful forgiving ever present God. Much to be thankful for even in 2020.
Yes, I really appreciate your Christian/Ignatian emphasis on “God who lets us experience our choices” as a passage to humility and gratitude for God’s infinite mercy. Indeed, 2020 presented many opportunities for that!