NOVEMBER 22, 2007: THANKSGIVING DAYC ISAIAH 63:7B9; LUKE 17:11B19
NO ONE HAS RETURNED TO GIVE PRAISE TO GOD SAVE THIS FOREIGNER. With these words Jesus expresses his disappointment and possibly even his indignation, that the majority of those who benefited from his merciful healing displayed no sense of gratitude toward their healer. He felt that acknowledgment was due to God through thanks given to himself. He in fact does not use the word thanksgiving or gratitude, but rather speaks of giving praise to God, from whom this blessing flowed.
Gratitude plays an essential part in establishing personal relations in life. Every experience of personal love evokes a measure of gratitude, for of its very nature, true love is always a freely given gift of oneself. It is an act of recognition of a good in the beloved. In human relations such love as is true is experienced as unmerited in the sense that it a free bestowal of trust that engages the very self of the lover. It is believed in but felt as unmerited. God alone fully merits such trusting surrender of one=s person; human love includes the acceptance of the limits and weaknesses of the beloved and so is experienced as a generous, unmerited gift that inspires gratitude. Our Lord understood that with acute sensitivity; even more was he attuned to its significance in our relations with God, the giver of all good gifts. He certainly learned the sentiment and dispositions associated with gratitude by his early experiences in his family life. His human nature was reinforced in this matter by the lively sense he was endowed with of receiving all the good things he knew from his heavenly Father. He was also instructed in the place of thanksgiving by his reading of the prophets. The prophecy of Isaiah is one of the readings that can be chosen for this day for it contains a fervent expression of a grateful man of God that leads to praise and appreciation of the beneficent Giver:
Let me sing the praises of the Lord=s goodness, and of his marvelous deeds, in return for all that He has done for us and for the great kindness he has shown us in his mercy and in his boundless goodness. (63:7B9)
Thanksgiving played a prominent role in the life of Jesus. Repeatedly he raises his voice to the Father to give expression to his sense of gratitude and appreciation. He inherited this sensitivity to the Father=s benevolent generosity from his mother who contributed so greatly to his formation. Her Magnificat is a hymn of grateful praise, and expresses the intimate dispositions of her heart. Jesus and Mary both were exposed to the Jewish liturgy regularly and observed the prayer practices of their people which give broad scope to praise and thanksgiving. The name of the Psalter, which is the prayer book of the Hebrew Scriptures, in Hebrew is Tehillim, which means Praises. Thanksgiving to God is a response based on recognition of his transcendent glory and goodness in the first place; at the same time, it registers appreciation for his many kindnesses bestowed on his faithful.
Jesus gave a new intensity and a more profound depth to the prayer of praise and thanksgiving by the purity of his adherence to the Father=s will and plan at such great cost to himself. It was at the hour when he as to enter upon his agony, suffering and death on the cross that he raised his voice in thanksgiving over the bread and wine at the Last Supper. He blessed God and, as St Luke tells us, AThen he took some bread and when he had given thanks, broke it and gave it . . . he did the same with the cup. . .@ Ever since the Last Supper, the Church has imitated this act of thanksgiving that encloses within its fervent accents acknowledgment of the Father=s goodness and beneficence. We read of the breaking of the bread in the Acts of the Apostles and in Saint Paul=s First Epistle to the Corinthians where Paul notes that as Jesus was about to consecrate the bread he gave thanks to the Father.
The national feast of Thanksgiving was initiated by our Puritan forefathers. They did not have the Eucharist with which to give thanks to God for the blessings received, but they had a strong sense of God=s care and Providence that bestowed on them gifts of the harvest and, more importantly, of freedom of worship. By the mercy of God, we have a more adequate expression of Thanksgiving than theirs, revealed to us in Scripture and passed on to us through the generations of faithful sons and daughters of the Church We celebrate it at this altar in the form of this Eucharist. May it serve to obtain God=s blessings of justice, peace and freedom for our loved ones and indeed for the whole of our country. We make this firm hope our prayer, to the glory of God the Father and in gratitude for his gifts, above all for the gifts of his Son and his Spirit. May he be praised and glorified through his Son, in the Spirit now and forevermore Amen. Ω
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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