Readings: Sirach 50:22-14; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19
The wise man Sirach said: Bless the God of all…may his goodness to us endure.
Saint Paul said: I give thanks to my God always for you, for the grace of God bestowed on you in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ said: Was there no one to return and give thanks to God except this foreigner?
All the people of our land celebrate today the national observance of Thanksgiving Day. It is one of the few legal holidays that the Church also embraces as a spiritual celebration. Labor Day is one, as is Christmas, of course, and New Year’s Day which is the octave day of Christmas honoring the Mother of God and the World Day of Prayer for Peace. The more we can place a religious focus on our country’s celebrations, the more we can keep God’s presence among us as a people united under God.
But Thanksgiving Day remains unique among theses other celebrations, as a day set aside for national recognition for God’s providential role in our country. Political leaders may still speak freely of God at least on this day, as they may speak of God’s role among us in our origins and throughout our history.
Thanksgiving. Giving thanks. Saying “thank you”. Who can help but smile when you sometimes overhear a father or mother say to their small child, “Now, say thank you to the nice person.” What we learn young, stays with us our whole lives. Maybe those same parents might also say to their child, “Now say thank you to God before you go to sleep”? There may be many who do so. Shouldn’t children hear their parents tell them: “Now say thank you to God”? And perhaps adults should sometimes hear someone ask them to say “thank you” to another person. It can’t hurt. Or they may learn to do so from us, if we are in the habit ourselves of readily saying thanks to others. And thanks to God.
For what should I give thanks to God? For his blessings to me, of course. But what are God’s blessings? In our refectory reading from Thomas Merton this week, The Climate of Monastic Prayer, Fr. Louis made the observation how we should reflect, when we have struggled in prayer through dryness or darkness, as we all have–and do, of we persevere at it, that this might be our most fruitful prayer of all, no matter how worthless I might be inclined to judge the time spent. I do not see as God sees, I cannot judge with God’s judgment. Look at the poor widow who left a few pathetic coins in the temple treasury. What did Jesus say?
We live by faith. God judges my heart and my intention, more than any material worth. We know that, but we need to be reminded again and again.
It is a hard thing to see God’s care and love present in what we suffer, in the tragedies that come to each one’s life. Who is strong enough, who has the faith firm enough, to wish to thank God for what feels so painful or wrong, a great injustice or a terrible loss? And yet…One day with God I may truly see my loss or injustice in a totally different light. And I will also see just as clearly how I responded to God for what I then suffered. What might my response have been? God understands, of course. How could he not understand and still be God? But what response might I now wish I had made?
A psalmist three thousand years ago said it all: My soul, give thanks to the Lord, all my being, bless his holy name. My soul, give thanks to the Lord, and never forget all his blessing.
And now let us go forward to offer to God the most perfect thanksgiving to him possible, which God himself has given us, the Holy Eucharist.