Thanks For Forgiving

St. Mark’s Corner – By Richard Watkins

For those who really don’t know me, behind the affable, genial, jovial, happy-go-lucky, Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah exterior I often project, lies a jaded, cynical, pessimistic, sarcastic, and bitter heart and mind. However, instead of tapping into these traits for evil, I try to use them for good; much like Spider-man, who, getting bit by a radio-active spider, could have used his new powers for robbing banks or jewelry stores or precious pieces of art, but instead he is friendly and helps people in need. He uses his spidey-senses to track down the bad guy, get him on shaky ground and then “boom”, caught in his web.

Like Spidey, I too try to help people in need, first by saying something funny to ease people into a sense of calm, and then hitting them with a hard shot of “snap-out-of-it” reality.

Now, if you are at all familiar with St. Mark’s Corner, you must surely be aware that over the past six or so years, around this time, I have mused over several different aspects of Thanksgiving. What it really means; what it should really be called; what we should really do or fond remembrance of Thanksgiving past. Those were all under the guise of the fluffy-fuzzy, comfy-cozy, me. But today, here comes the jerk!

There is a difference between being thankful and giving thanks at Thanksgiving. You could be thankful that the Lions at least covered the spread. You could be thankful that your Uncle Marvin didn’t show up this year as he is boycotting all things Native American because of Columbus Day being redubbed as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Giving thanks, however, involves an active reflection of deep appreciation for all the “good” in your life. You may give thanks for your house. For the meal you are about eat. For family. Your job.

But here is what I think: if you were to take a deep dive into your inner psyche and subconscious, I bet what you really mean is “thank God I am not homeless”. “Thank God I am not hungry.” “Thank God I am not alone.”

We see this dynamic played out most vividly in Luke 18:9-13 which reads:

“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.

The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’

But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”

The Pharisee, full of self-righteousness and indignation for others, thanks God for how good he has it. You could say that although he was in the temple to pray, he didn’t but instead boasted of his self-perceived holier-than-thou-ness. The tax collector, on the other hand, asked for forgiveness for the sins he was fully aware of committing. And as Jesus goes on to say:

“I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This year, instead of being like the Pharisee, as you celebrate your winnings because Detroit only lost by 13 when the spread was 17, and you have your pleasant conversation with your relatives about anything non-Q related, and you drive home to your own house, with your full belly and not having to go to work for three more days, be like the tax collector. Don’t give thanks, rather, be thankful for being forgiven.