Happy Thanksgiving

by Rev. Gabriel Baltes, O.S.B.  |  11/19/2023  |  A Message from Our Pastor

Dear Parishioners,

In his insightful commentary on the Sunday Scripture readings, Food for the Soul, the philosopher and lay person Peter Kreeft makes the following observation, The very first thing Jesus did when he instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, according to the Gospels,  is this: He looked up to heaven and gave thanks to his Father.

Far from being some accidental extra that the gospel writers wove into their accounts of Jesus’ final meal before he died, this quality of gratitude was one of the fundamental characteristics of Jesus’ entire life. It therefore needed to be an essential dimension in his Last Supper which was when the Eucharistic life of the church was born. The very word “Eucharist” can be translated “good gift” or “good for which we give thanks.”

Kreeft goes on to claim that gratitude is an absolutely necessary requirement for any and all religion. How could one possibly have a genuine relationship with God, who is the giver of all good gifts (both natural and supernatural), unless one’s heart is steeped in gratitude for God’s boundless generosity to human beings? This is a generosity that no one merited or deserved. It is simply the result of God being God. Bonum diffusivum sui est, as the old Latin proverb reads, i.e., “Goodness diffuses itself.”

Everything is a gift beginning with the universe which did not create itself, but was rather the product of a “Big Bang” that God banged out a billion years ago. Our very existence, our physical conception in our mother’s womb is a gift which is why birthdays are celebrated so joyfully each year. From this existence given us by God, flows a multitude of other gifts in ourselves that we have learned to identify and then cultivate for the good of others. Whether one is an accomplished cook or athlete, farmer or attorney, parent, celibate or person still searching, we owe all this to God. Our first and greatest response to God, therefore, must be gratitude. 

Kreeft recommends and exercise I would encourage all of us to undertake in the days leading up to Thanksgiving Day, that is, to write down 100 good things that we were given by God, either supernaturally (e.g., salvation) naturally (e.g., our bodies) or through other people (e.g., friendships), as a way of literally counting our blessings. We might be amazed at how many there are and how few we acknowledge.

I extend an invitation to all our parishioners to join us on this Thanksgiving Day for the 9:30 solemn Liturgy. As in the past, we will have an amplified choir to lead us in song, a variety of instruments to further enhance the musical repertoire and our traditional custom of providing a fresh backed loaf of bread that will be blessed after Communion and then distributed for sharing at family tables. Since the Eucharist is our greatest ritual expression of gratitude as Catholics, would we not want to begin this annual celebration by doing what Jesus asked us to do – to take and eat, for this is my body that is given up for you. Parades, Turkey Trots, football games and lavish meals are time honored features of Thanksgiving Day, for sure. But all of these are only secondary expressions when compared to the gift of the Eucharist where we encounter the living God most uniquely. To God be power, glory and gratitude, forever and ever, Amen.