Thanksgiving usually brings lots of joy and fun with good family fellowship. Except that this year it won’t be Thanksgiving as usual! Most people, I hear, are opting for the most heartbreaking decision: a nuclear Thanksgiving! Celebration with just the immediate family. A wise decision to protect ourselves, our family and friends and the larger community from Covid-19. Yet the spirit of Thanksgiving will not be dead even with a subdued celebration. This year the pandemic makes us conscious of the importance of gratitude to two realities:
- Thanking God for the gift of each day. Often we take it for granted. Covid-19 teaches us that tomorrow is not guaranteed; all we have is today. Live the present moment fully and be alive with a grateful heart and joyful spirit.
- Thanking our immediate family. The lockdown can be seen as a blessing in disguise for so many families to grow closer and to appreciate each other better.
Why not begin the Day of Thanksgiving by attending the 8 am Mass in our Church either in person or online? That will set the right tone for the rest of the day. When we consider the unbelievable loss of life in every family in the first year of the arrival of the early settlers, no one would have blamed them for setting aside a day of mourning, instead of a day of Thanksgiving. But they chose to commemorate their time in the new world with a day of Thanksgiving despite the grief, poverty and illness. It is also good to remember that President Lincoln’s declaration of a national day of Thanksgiving happened in the midst of a devastating Civil War. Today, faced with the threat of a tiny but deadly virus, let us spend this day with a greater sense of gratitude to God and to one another.
Today’s Feast of the Solemnity of Christ the King is the signal that the Church’s calendar year is coming to an end and that we are about to start the new year! Thus, the First Sunday of the New Year in the Liturgical Calendar is next Sunday as we begin the season of Advent! It is good for us to know that today’s feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism, a way of life which leaves God out of our thinking and living, and organizes life as if God did not exist. The feast is meant to proclaim, in a striking and effective manner, Christ’s royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations. May we all recognize this truth and continue our efforts to honor Jesus by living his values.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal
“Another Bigger Pandemic?”
I have heard some experts say that we need to be ready for a bigger pandemic than coronavirus: the mental health problem. We are all shocked that all areas of our lives are suddenly disrupted. Change in our work schedule, keeping social distancing, living in isolation, dealing with family, and facing financial uncertainties are just some of the factors that can cause stress leading to depression. Dr. Robert Leahy, an attending psychologist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, the author of The Worry Cure and Keeping Your Head After Losing Your Job, and a national expert in cognitive therapy, says: “This is the perfect storm for depression and anxiety. We are facing a national trauma, whether it’s the fear of being infected or infecting someone else, or the economic downturn, and many people are isolated.” Yes, fear is a big factor that we need to face in order to reduce anxiety. Overcoming fear will increase our hope and joy so that we can be stronger during this pandemic. There are many tips out there given by various experts. But here are five of my personal suggestions:
Listen to God’s reassurance “Do not fear!”: This is in today’s Gospel. Did you know that similar promises, not to fear or not be anxious, are mentioned 365 times in the Bible? This reminds us that God wants us to be living without fear each day of the year. Hence believe that God’s protection is with us daily.
Count the blessings and practice gratitude: it is so easy to focus on what we miss during this pandemic. True, we miss our freedom to travel where we want, meet who we want, eat where we want, etc. Focusing on these will certainly make us moody, irritable, and sad. Instead, look at the blessings that we still can enjoy: blessings of life, family, easy availability of food, connectivity with people, etc. and thank God for these daily.
Follow a schedule: When we have unstructured time, we can become lazy or lethargic. We tend to procrastinate. Instead, following a regular schedule will keep us in good shape physically, mentally and spiritually. This will make us feel good about ourselves.
Use every opportunity for personal spiritual enrichment: This is an excellent way to fortify ourselves against depression. Our parish offers daily Mass (in person and online) and Gospel sharing on Wednesdays of summer via zoom. Other means — personal meditations, intentionally choosing books or shows that are uplifting, etc. — are healthy.
Make family prayer a daily habit: Praying together as a family can be a challenge. To pray together daily can be a bigger challenge. But can each family decide some common time and day/days of the week to pray together? Read a Bible passage and reflect together or pray the rosary, or express what we are grateful for today. Make it a daily habit.
Each day can be positive or negative. It all depends on our attitude. The choice is ours to keep ourselves happy. I believe this is why St. Paul was able to say: “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
God bless us all.
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal