NOVEMBER 27, 2003- THANKSGIVING DAY: HOMILY- LUKE 17: 11-19.
JESUS HEALED TEN LEPERS. ONLY ONE CAME BACK . HE PROSTRATED AT JESUS' FEET, GIVING THANKS TO HIM.The word in the Greek text that the evangelist uses to characterize the behavior of the Samaritan leper is gŘP"D4FJjv, meaning 'giving thanks'. Nothing could be more fitting than that on this day when our nation celebrates its traditional holiday in acknowledgment of God's blessings on the harvest as well as his other favors to us as a people we who believe in Christ come together at the table of the Lord to offer thanksgiving in the form of The Thanksgiving sacrifice of our Lord. We are above all else grateful for the gifts of Godís grace and forgiveness. But at the same time, we join our fellow Americans in expressing gratitude for the many material gifts that contribute to make life humane and peaceable. Where God withholds his benefits and resources are scarce, peace and order soon take flight, human relations become violent, and the ensuing disorder disrupts family life. We in this country have problems enough, but one does not have to stay long in third world countries to appreciate how much our country is blessed in a variety of ways.
Our Lord makes it clear in today's Gospel that he expects acknowledgment of his benefits. He would not have been human had he not been sensitive to such avowal of thanks and its lack. On this occasion he disburdens himself of strong feelings of disappointment, made all the more poignant by the fact that all of his fellow Jews display a callous indifference toward his person. Was no one found to return and give glory to God except this foreigner?', he exclaimed. Thanksgiving gives glory to God; the Lord implies that it is a form of glorification of God, an expression of worship. It is not for his own sake as if he needs human recognition that Jesus looks for such gratitude. He is concerned for the honor of his Father. Failure to give thanks for his gifts received through Christ is an affront to the Fatherís glory.
These two activities, thanksgiving and glorification, are closely associated expressions of appreciation. Thanksgiving is the outward show of gratitude for what one has received; glorification expresses appreciation of the intrinsic worth of the one who is acknowledged as deserving honor and glory. We give glory to someone whose superior qualities we perceive, acknowledge and rejoice in. Thanksgiving is one form of glorifying, that is to say, of paying tribute to the goodness of another, of recognizing his or her power to bestow benefits and his generosity in conferring them. It appears then that the giving of thanks to God enhances our capacity for truth in that it willingly ascribes oneís blessings to their author in all humility. Gratitude has this further result that it expands our heart, causes us to more willing to look at life as others experience it and thus extends our capacity for responding to others. The grateful person who gives expression to her benefactor more readily perceives the good in others, is less inclined to critical judgment being aware that only grace and mercy assure the possibility of human success and happiness, and rejoicing in that fact.
It is not surprising then that the inspired authors of the New Testament so often commend the giving of thanks to God. There are at least fifty passages that speak of thanksgiving. St. Paul is particularly concerned to inculcate this disposition and its expression. The author of the Apocalypse depicts life in heaven as a continuous Eucharist, that is to say, a giving thanks to God before whose throne all the saints stand. He makes use of this word Eucharist to express the worship offered by the living creatures closest to the throne of God. Their joy in Godís presence leads them to express unending thanksgiving and praise of his glory.
It is hardly surprising then, that about the same time the Apocalypse was written, toward the end of the first century the early Church, as we read in the Didache, refers to the Lord's Supper as The Thanksgiving (that is, íThe Eucharistí). This name has continued down to the present. We direct our thanksgiving to God today for the many material blessings to us and to our country, but even more do we thank him by this sacrifice of Christ renewed under the form of bread and wine. For through it we receive the gift of salvation, eternal life with the Father in the Spirit of the glorified Jesus. With grateful hearts then let us give thanks and glory to the God who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual gift from the Father of lights.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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