Sir 50:22-24; Ps 138:1-5; 1Cor 1:3-9; Lk 17:11-19
Who gives thanks today? We give thanks with all our hearts. We invest our deepest self in this day of thanksgiving because we are Eucharistic people. We who give thanks, week by week, or day by day, we know how to celebrate thanksgiving. Indeed, we Catholics have much to teach our brothers and sisters who join in giving thanks for all the blessings of family, food, and friendship. As the psalmist calls us to pray, “Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness and love.” Thanksgiving is not complete until it engages our whole being, even to the depths of who we are. It cannot be superficial because we are by nature dependent creatures. We are contingent; we absolutely need the Father. Thanksgiving transports us into the very presence of the angels, who fill his temple with endless praise. We may not have sacraments in heaven, but we never cease to become what we eat in the Eucharist. Even in eternity we grow in the glory of our head, Jesus Christ, we who are his body. Thanksgiving abounds in the hearts of all who know the Lord’s kindness and truth, those who are built up in strength when they call upon him. Being thankful is never just an intellectual exercise; our hearts must burst with gratitude. Every nation and king shall give thanks when they hear the words of his mouth; together they will sing, “Great is the glory of the LORD.”
Those who do not give thanks are foolish. Those who refuse to learn how to be a Eucharistic people have no wisdom. In this wisdom from Jesus ben Sirach we hear from the origins of our thanksgiving in the Jewish tradition. Our ancestors in faith personally blessed the LORD no less than one hundred times a day. Most Hebrew blessings begin with “Baruch atah, Adonai eloheinu…,” which is translated, “Blessed are You, Lord our God…” Our blessing of God adds nothing to his greatness but makes us more and more aware of his grace and glory in our daily lives. This attitude of gratitude grows over the years. The word we translate as “blessed” (baruch) is closely related to the word we translate “knee” (berech); perhaps that’s because we must humbly kneel before the LORD in recognition of who he is in himself and who he is toward us. Indeed, the LORD is the source of all wonders; he fosters our growth, and fashions us according to his will. Once we accept this truth, then we can receive true joy of heart and peace that passes understanding. Our personal, heart felt joy and peace gives hope to all Israel for deliverance in our day. The wisdom of our thanksgiving overwhelms the foolishness of those who never humbly kneel.
The Eucharistic heart of Saint Paul is revealed in his first letter to the Corinthians. In the greeting he writes, “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way…so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you await for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We, too, give thanks on account of all who feel the need to give thanks but do not know to whom that thanks is due. The greatest joy for the Apostle is that the all- faithful God continues to call his disciples to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. So our thanksgiving is itself transformative. If we grow in fellowship, we become more and more like the Lord Jesus. As Saint John of the Cross teaches, we become divine by grace and Christ is divine by nature. Not only do we have every spiritual gift in the heavens, we are also becoming more and more like The One for whom we await.
It is truly impossible to give thanks without the gift of faith. The Samaritan leper is praised by the Lord Jesus, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” He can freely return to the Lord and give thanks because he has the gift of faith. This Samaritan doesn’t let centuries of prejudice and hatred fester; “And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice, and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” Without the gift of faith this foreigner would not have known whom to thank. He knew in faith that the Lord Jesus is both the long awaited messiah of Israel and an absolutely necessary light to the nations. As the Lord Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he wandered through the pagan territories of Samaria and Galilee. It was there he found a faith filled pagan, and praised him. It was there he found one healed pagan leper filled with thanks, and pointed him out to every generation as a model.