Central to our Christian faith is the celebration of Eucharist. While definitely referring to the consecrated body and blood of Jesus, this word originates from the Greek word εὐχαριστία (transliterated, “Eucharistia”), meaning thanksgiving. And at least for most Christians, and Catholics in particular, we are certainly grateful for the saving acts of God throughout history, specifically for God becoming one like us in the person of Jesus. And so our response of thanksgiving is celebrated in the church’s liturgy every Sunday, and yet there is so much more to a life that is lived in gratitude.
As we gather on Sundays as a community we immediately give God thanks in the Gloria; in response to God’s Word proclaimed in the first two readings we say “thanks be to God”; and in the preface of the Eucharistic prayer we are led to “(let us) give thanks to the Lord our God.”; AND in the closing blessing we respond “thanks be to God” when sent out to “love and serve the Lord”. Our gratitude continues outside the church’s doors and is intended to be central in our daily lives.
As the Executive Director of Steepletown I see many acts of selfless love and service on a daily basis performed by Steepletown’s staff and volunteers: young men being mentored and guided to acknowledge their self-worth and develop skills that lead to jobs; young adults without high school diplomas tutored and encouraged to pursue their dreams; neighborhood children provided free daily meals when institutional programs end for the summer; local businesses and their employees who pitch in to help build a neighborhood playground; a retired former agency director with her MSW answering calls to make sure Seniors who want to stay in their homes have someone showing up to shovel their snow or fix a broken handrail…the list could easily fill several pages. Thanks be to God for this opportunity to serve Him in the least of our brothers and sisters.
As Pope Francis is quoted as saying at a General Audience this summer: “Gratitude is a characteristic trait of the heart visited by the Holy Spirit; to obey God we must first remember his benefits. Whoever does not let those benefits fall into oblivion, is oriented towards good virtue and to every work of justice.” May we be reminded of God’s countless blessings this Thanksgiving, and especially for the opportunity to love and serve the Lord in our neighbor.