At home, I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade from New York City as I stuff the turkey. It’s still exciting for me today to watch Santa coming down the parade route. My day is not complete unless I ate too much and watched the football game, in short ... it is a day to make memories and to listen and enjoy those who are important in my life.
And, every Thanksgiving I think about how Jesus gathered and enjoyed an odd collection of disciples and other listeners on a hillside near the Sea of Galilee. His words to those gathered may seem a little surprising. He told them the way to blessedness is through poverty, grief, meekness, hunger and thirst, mercy, purity, pacifism and persecution. In fact, He says that the divine prescription for those who want to be His disciples is to reach out to others.
Luckily, Jesus goes on ... becoming a little more promising when He says, “you are the salt of the earth” and not only that, He adds “the light of the world.” That’s surely a little more affirming and positive. But Jesus’ statement about our identity is more than positive affirmation; it is an indication of our responsibility. Those who follow Him have to take on the weight of influencing the grave situation that this world finds itself in. He calls us to work for justice and to assist all who ask for help. The words that He shared 2,000 years ago are as true today.
The basic principle is that God’s people are key to the Kingdom of God in this world, and, that those who hear Jesus, who have ears to hear the truth and act on it, are the vehicles of God’s actions in this world. WE, His disciples are the salt and light, preserving, seasoning, illuminating, and pointing to the one true Light. There is something profound and humbling about a God who does His work through a ragtag collection of redeemed throwaways.
How does this really relate to Thanksgiving? Maybe we need to remember that our life is largely shaped by our definition of discipleship. We are reminded that if we do not move toward remembering that we are called to help our neighbor in need then our understanding of joy is limited. Jesus opens His conversation with words designed to help us understand HIS truth. His conversation tells us that we can never come to grips with reality, God’s reality, until we understand we are called to be His salt and His light in the world today.
Happy Thanksgiving! May your journey lead you closer to Jesus and what He calls you to do, especially for those most in need this holiday season.
Theresa Montminy is Director of Mission Advancement in the Diocese of San Bernardino.