You have probably heard the quote from Meister Eckhart, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” In a way, this is true. It’s true for a variety of reasons. When I think of the Thanksgiving holiday, I am reminded always at the meaning of the word Eucharist is thanksgiving. This it’s an important reminder for me, because it seems to me that in understanding this quote by Meister Eckhart, we need to remember the for Catholics, the primary action of Thanksgiving is the Eucharist.
This is not simply an awareness that we need to be grateful for what we have, as important as that is. It is an awareness, that the most important way we can give thanks to God, is in the celebration of the Eucharist. Why is this so? In order to understand this concept, it might be helpful to turn to St. Paul the apostle. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul reminds us that when we consider the notion of the body of Christ, it can be interpreted in two ways. First of all, of course there is the person of Jesus Christ himself. This understanding of the body of Christ, reminds us of Jesus present in the Eucharist.
But, of course, there is Paul’s famous observation that the body of Christ can also refer to the people of God. Each one of us is a member of it. And so when we think of the action of Thanksgiving, our minds are naturally raised not only to the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but also to the presence of those people only love and care about, part of this great august body we refer to as the church.
And doesn’t this sum up the reasons why we are thankful this day. Isn’t it this very awareness that we have our faith, our family and our friends to guide us along the way. Because we can forget the tremendous gifts we have been given in our lives, is important for us to have at least one day of the year, where we are reminded of its importance. Think of the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist. It is an amazing, when we think about it, but the Lord Jesus Christ is visible and present to us in so many ways? And think of our family and friends. Every single one of us has moments where we take them for granted. But imagine how much our lives would be changed, how different they would be, without the presence of family and friends in our lives.
The leper who came back to Jesus and gave thanks, is lauded particularly because there is this tremendous recognition that something magnificent as occurred in his life. But not only that, this recognition is an awareness of the one who made it possible. The leper understands that his life has been changed completely. No longer castigated to the outside of the community. No longer needing to shout “unclean, unclean!”. No, this leper has had his life restored to him. He will be reintroduced to the community in a powerful way that simply was not possible by his own accord.
But most important, he understands that this was possible only by the action of Jesus. He goes back to Jesus with the distinct purpose of saying “thank you.” How easy it is in this day and age for us to lose our gratitude for the most important things in our lives. How easy it is for us to think that the poor are robbing us, because as some like to tell us we know that they are lazy. (I hope you catch the sarcasm there.) There are some who tell us that despite all that we have, there simply is no more room in this country for the stranger. That is to say, unless the stranger can really do something for us.
As we have already experienced, the real purpose of this holiday appears to be to prepare us for the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, at least in the eyes of the world. It remains amazing to me, that precisely the ability to spend time with our family, our friends, with those whom he loved, would be cut short simply so that we can get an early start on the Christmas shopping season. How sad it is that following a day where we rightly focus on those things for which we are thankful, some of us engage in the worst elements of consumerism. I’m sure you’re aware as a mine, that people have in fact been trampled to death outside of retail places for the sake of a sale.
But our presence here today reminds us, of the importance of a heart filled with gratitude. I think so much happiness and health comes when we can shift our minds away from those things which make us sad, and to turn ourselves toward those things for which we are truly called to be thankful. And so today, as you enjoy a meal with your family and friends are with whom ever you are celebrating this day, be sure to take time to thank God for the many blessings God has placed within your lives.