On Thursday we give thanks to God for our dearest country, the blessing of living in America. Rendering thanks to God is a simple duty of Christians and of Americans, as our first President decreed in 1789: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God …."
The President and our government deserve our thanks and respect as well; St. Paul calls us to obey the king and all just civil laws; the catechism teaches us to pay our taxes. But God must have our first thanks, and our first loyalty. We serve our country best by rendering witness to something greater than our country. Presidents Washington and Lincoln would agree that citizens exercise loyalty to their president by exercising fidelity to their God. Abraham Lincoln confirmed his predecessor’s 1789 proclamation with his own of 1863: “I invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Citizens of Heaven First
“We are citizens of heaven first,” Archbishop Chaput writes in his little book Render Unto Caesar. Catholics should not be less involved in politics, but more; not less visible but more visible as Catholics in society. The entire Western system of democracy, rule of law, and free economics developed through 3000 years of Judeo-Christian jurisprudence. Christian practices of democracy and human rights have been adopted by the entire world. Who best can guide politics to the Common Good than Catholics guided by Gospel principles? “The Catholic Church,” concludes Archbishop Chaput, “cannot stay, has never stayed, and never will stay out of politics…. Living our Catholic faith without excuses and apologies, and advancing them in the public square, are the best expressions of patriotism.”
Our Talent of Faith
I say this because Christ’s parable today speaks of talents, and St. Paul tells us we do not walk in darkness, like those who do not believe. God has given us the great gift of faith: we are in church this morning, and most of America is not. What are we doing with that precious talent, our faith? Are we keeping it all to ourselves, on a little altar at home, or are we spreading it? How many people have we won over to Jesus this year? We can at least invite our friends and relatives to Mass, and if they don’t come, pray for them daily by name. What about our enemies? Have we prayed for them by name? If I go to God with only the one talent he gave me at my baptism, he will say to me “You wicked, lazy servant!” I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to hear that on judgement day. Every Catholic has the solemn duty to evangelize, to win souls for Christ, to bring them to Mass and bring them to prayer, in whatever way we can.
Sober and Alert
St. Paul urges us to be “alert and sober” in his letter to the Thessalonians. “The day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, ‘Peace and security,’ then sudden disaster comes upon them.” Two years ago, our nation’s highest court told God that we don’t need His help in ordering our lives together. Our government redefined marriage and family, the most fundamental cell of society. Disaster is surely coming—the chaos that will inevitably result from this further decline of the family. It happened to Rome when senators began divorcing their wives. A great society that had been built on strong family life began to disintegrate. It is happening to us too. Increasing acts of random violence and domestic terrorism are not random: they are domestic. We have largely lost the domus, the home. As Archbishop Chaput wrote, the times demand not less but more overt political involvement by faithful Catholics, providing that stability which only faith can provide for our nation. We give God thanks this Thursday for our dear country, and we pray Him to preserve it as one union under his divine protection.