Thanksgiving Day Away from Home
by Peter J. Lynch
Being away from home can make some of the holidays difficult. At the major holidays, like Thanksgiving, the entire family would get together; and at the same time we are catching up on what's new, we find we are still the same. In my family we are all grown now and moved away from home. There is so much that happens in our lives in between these precious times that change us, our views, our tastes or simply make us really different somehow. So in another sense we are getting to know each other all over again. But there is always that foundation of familiarity. We are immediately accepted, we don't need to put on airs, though we may fall back into the petty sibling rivalries. All in all, we can be who we are, and we can get back in touch with where we come from, which helps us not take ourselves too seriously. It is a place and a time where we can leave our masks at the door, and if we want, pick them up again as we leave. More often I think we wish we could leave them there.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that is a real eye-opener for me while I am away in seminary. This is so mostly for the reason that it is not a holiday where we give gifts trying to guess what everyone needs or think they want. Rather, at the end of the celebration, the treasures we go home with cannot be held in the trunks of our cars, or in our pockets, but are held and cherished in our hearts. No value can be put on the love found in a family, and it is the gift that can be given ever anew. This is what I have come to miss most not being home for such holidays. To come together with those I love and coming away with the greatest treasure; to be with those who know me better than anyone, and yet still love me despite it all.
Being far away during these precious times allow me to know other blessings as well. In this time of formation to the priesthood of Jesus Christ, the pain of separation is at the same time the sweet joy of companionship with Christ. How do I make it through all that pain and sorrow? My next question can easily be "How did He make it through all that pain and sorrow?" Simply by love. These times of separation from the ones I love is a time of real sacrifice for the ones I love, and the ones I will come to love in service to the Church, the people of God. Our Lord tells us what perfect love is when He tells us, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) He then shows us this love on the cross. So what does real love entail? As much as it is the longing to be with each other and the heartfelt intimate relation we can have with another, it also is sacrifice and suffering. How much is it really love without this? Christ shows us that this is a part of it even to the point of death. For me, holidays are still a time for rejoicing, because in them I am able to die a little more that I may love a little more. What would the point of my loving be in my service of the Church as a priest if I could not sacrifice and suffer for the people of God whom I love and serve?
So this is the new meaning of joyful holidays for me; that I can unite myself with Him, after whom I am being formed, in order to learn to love as He did. The joy is in the sacrifice I make in being here, in Rome, away from friends and family, so I may more perfectly love all His people, and not only a few.
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