Homily for Thanksgiving Day.
Today we have gathered in the church, my dear friends, to give thanks to God for His great mercy to us. God’s greatest mercy to us is that we are Orthodox Christians. Our faith is truly that pearl, for which the merchant who is mentioned in the Gospel sold all his possessions in order to acquire it. And each one of us now possesses this greatest treasure in life.
In our times, more than ever before, it is very important for us to appreciate this treasure, to thank the Lord for it, and to hold onto it with all our might.
Look at the life which surrounds us, my dear friends: we see so many misfortunes and calamities, natural disasters, social ills, spiritual woes; we see so many sorrows and misfortunes in each family, in our personal lives; we see so much evil all around us, horrible, cruel, soul-freezing evil, so that it can truly be said that our entire world is steeped in iniquity.
And so, gazing upon all this horror, we must thank the Lord with all our heart. We must thank God that our faith, like the sun, shines for us in the surrounding darkness, lights our way out of it into the Kingdom of truth, into eternal life; provides us with the warmth of goodness and love amid the surrounding cruelty and inhumanity; guides us onto the true path of life, so that we can avoid and protect ourselves from the evil which ensnares us; leads us into the quiet shelter of the Church, which provides us with a safe harbor from the insane vanity and malice of the world around us.
We must thank the Lord that our faith gives us the spiritual wisdom to understand current events, evaluate them properly and learn from them; to understand that natural and social disasters are sent by the Lord primarily in order to shake mankind out of its state of sinful indifference, awaken it from spiritual slumber, remind it that we do not live on this earth forever and that we are destined for another life.
For example, when recent tragic destructions occurred here in America in connection with terrorist acts, how many people then remembered God, turned to God with tears and prayers, at least for a short while were thrown out of their routine of worldly busyness and spiritual indifference? That was precisely the purpose of all that God allowed to happen. This is confirmed by the words of the Lord Himself, said as a lesson to the Jews who surrounded Him, but which equally apply to us: reminding them of the biblical event in which the tower of Siloam fell and crushed the people standing nearby, the Lord said: do you believe that those men on whom the tower fell were more sinful than the other inhabitants of the city? No, I tell you, but all of you will perish likewise if you do not repent.
So will we, too, perish if we do not repent, my dear friends, and thus we should thank the Lord that He does not allow us to perish, but through sorrows and misfortunes reminds us of repentance, encourages us to abandon the destructive path of modern life.
In our personal lives, too, there are now many sorrows, for which we should also give thanks to the Lord, because they are a sign of God’s concern for us and care of us. Pious Christians were always concerned when they did not experience sorrow in their lives for any length of time, fearing that the Lord had abandoned them.And so today, my dear friends, having come to church to give thanks to the Lord, we should thank Him for everything: for all the joys and all the sorrows equally, because everything which God’s Providence sends to us in our lives, is given to us for our salvation. Amen.
Father Rostislav Sheniloff.