THE BISHOP'S CROZIER: Giving Thanks
By Bishop James R. Golka
“In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In a few days, our country will celebrate the annual Thanksgiving holiday. This event happens every November, and for one day each year we are called to count our many blessings, to give thanks.
However, in a very real way, our Church has been doing this same thing; not once per year on the fourth Thursday of November, but every day of every month of every year for 2,000 years.
Every time a priest offers Mass, we are reminded of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. Quoting the Second Vatican Council’s “Lumen Gentium,” it states that “the Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life’” (CCC, No. 1324). That Eucharist is the very real presence of Jesus Christ.
Why do we refer to this reality of Jesus Christ as “Eucharist”? We draw that expression of the truth of the presence of Jesus Christ from the Greek word eucharistia, which means “thanksgiving.” The question remains, why this term, “thanksgiving”?
We are approaching the end of Cycle A in the Church’s liturgical calendar, and throughout the Sundays of Cycle A we hear primarily from the Gospel according to St. Matthew. The Gospel reading from Palm Sunday earlier this year points to the origin of our belief that our encounter with the real presence of Jesus during the Mass is an act of thanksgiving.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them . . .”
As the Word made flesh was approaching his suffering and death, as he faced being abandoned by his followers, as he anticipated betrayal at the hands of one of his apostles, as he prepared himself to be denied by his closest friend; he was giving thanks, he was preaching eucharistia, “thanksgiving.”
In the previous issue of the Herald, we highlighted Vocations Awareness Week. We note with gratitude the 17 men from our diocese who are in seminary preparing for and discerning their call to the priesthood. We are grateful for their openness to becoming the hands of Christ that bring us the Eucharist, the “thanksgiving.”
Digging into that virtue of gratitude, we again note that we are in the midst of a Eucharistic Revival here in the United States, in the country with a secular holiday set aside specifically for the purpose of giving thanks. Perhaps that notion of thanksgiving is worth reflecting on during these last months of the Eucharistic Revival.
The stated purpose of the Eucharistic Revival is “to restore understanding and devotion to this great mystery here in the United States by helping us renew our worship of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.”
This is a critical purpose, and it should animate our spiritual engagement during the revival and energize our participation in every Mass we are privileged to attend. Even more deeply, that “understanding and devotion to” the Eucharist should inspire us to express our gratitude to God with a love that encompasses our heart, soul, mind and strength.
During this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we have an opportunity to reflect more deeply and more personally on this Eucharistic gratitude. Doing so allows us to become more fascinated with Jesus Christ. If we humble ourselves before him, we can accept the infinite act of charity that is his sacrifice for us. This gratitude will lead us to the understanding that the Word, the God who spoke us into existence, came down from Heaven and suffered and died for us so that we might understand him better and be more devoted to him.
In that moment of humility before our friend Jesus, we will find unity with him, a unity that springs out of the infinite charity of himself on the Cross. When we recognize that humble, selfless act of oneness with us — in that moment — how can we do anything other than give thanks?
On this Thanksgiving holiday, whether you share the time with family and friends or you find yourself celebrating alone, take a moment to be what you receive in the Eucharist at Mass. Take a moment to become a eucharistia, a thanksgiving, to our friend, brother and Savior, Jesus Christ.