On Thursday, we celebrate Thanksgiving in this country; and this weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King as we come to the end of the liturgical year. The two celebrations come together as we recognize the hand of God at work in the world.
In particular, the virtue of thanksgiving, and this nation’s holiday of Thanksgiving, are based upon the recognition that good things do not simply happen on their own, but are rather given by God or chosen by people who are (whether they know it or not) guided by light from God. It is He who enables His people, in the Church and throughout the nations, to make salvation and true freedom manifest to the world. And so we thank God for His Providence thus far, as a Church and as a nation. Thus, in proclaiming the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1789, George Washington called upon Americans to “unite in rendering unto [God] our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed.” The Church likewise thanks God for guiding His people through all the storms of history to bring His truth and grace to all the world. Even the term Eucharist comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. For, when we see the visible goodness of this earth as a sign of the invisible glory of God, we become more able to receive the visible signs of bread and wine as bringing us the invisible presence of Jesus.
Of course, God gives us freedom, and we can defy His saving will. And because we live in community, we all affect each other for good or ill. Thus, each person’s life, and all of history, involve many storms and much suffering, alongside the gladness and joy of the Gospel. But, as we realize that Jesus Christ has brought His Gospel and His Church to triumph over the enemies and jaws of death that would suppress them, we have confidence that Christ the King will continue ruling over human history despite the forces arrayed against us. As St. John declares, “The light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5.