Category Archives: Thanksgiving

Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart

On this Thanksgiving weekend, I’m reminded that the word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek “eucharista” and means “thanksgiving.”

There is no better way to give thanks to God than to participate in the greatest act of worship possible: the sacrifice of Jesus. There is no better way to “make our bodies living sacrifices” (Rom 12:1) than to unite them to Christ’s sacrifice by receiving Him in the Holy Eucharist.

All of our own acts of worship fall short. No matter how sincerely we sing or how eloquently and emotionally we praise Him, we can never match the perfection of Christ’s worship. No matter how much we devote our lives to serving God, we will always fall short of Christ’s perfect service. So, in His mercy, He makes a way for us to unite ourselves, body and soul, to His own, perfect sacrifice.

The priest says, “The Body of Christ,” and we say, “Amen.” We receive the glorified Jesus. We dwell in Him and He dwells in us (Jn 6:56). We become united to the perfect, eternal sacrifice that Christ, the High Priest continually offers before the Father.

As a dear friend of mine recently said, “It’s all about a relationship with Jesus.” Indeed, there is no closer relationship to Jesus than the Holy Eucharist. We accept Christ into our hearts, and we accept Christ into our bodies. That’s intimacy. You can’t get more personal than that in a relationship.

Thank God for His mercy, His grace and His real presence in the Holy Eucharist.

Atheism And Thanksgiving

Gratitude is similar to a gift.  Without a recipient, it ceases to be.  I cannot give a gift to “no one.”  The very act of calling it a gift presupposes that it has an intended recipient.  The same is true for gratitude.  If there is no one to direct the gratitude to, it must be something other than gratitude, for gratitude requires someone to be a recipient.

An atheist can experience and express gratitude, but only on a limited basis.  For example, an atheist can be grateful to the gardener for planting flowers, but not for the flowers themselves.  Why?  Because the gardener did not create the flowers, she merely manipulated what was already in existence, even if she planted the seeds.  It is folly to direct gratitude towards “nature” because nature is not capable of receiving gratitude.  Whatever the atheist may feel about the existence of the flowers, it is not true gratitude until it can be directed at “someone.”  Nature is not “someone” although attempts have been made to personify it (Mother Nature).  It is also useless to thank “the universe” because the universe is not “someone,” either.

An atheist can be grateful to a spouse, but not for a spouse.  It is one thing to say, “Thank you for loving me and for marrying me,” but quite another to say, “Thank you for existing.”  One might thank one’s in-laws by saying, “Thank you for conceiving my spouse,” but that also falls short.  The in-laws did not create the life within one’s spouse, they were merely instruments used in the process.

An atheist can say to a doctor, “Thank you for saving my life.”  But there is no one an atheist can thank for life itself.  Once the atheist begins to express gratitude for life itself, the atheist has consciously or subconsciously acknowledged that there is “someone” able to receive that gratitude.  Until we imagine there is someone we might give something to, we do not call that thing a “gift.”  Until we imagine there must be someone to thank, we do not call it “gratitude.”

If one is truly grateful for life itself, there is no point in calling oneself an atheist, for one has already, to some degree, yielded to the One who transcends us.

The Ultimate Thanksgiving

When God fed the Israelites with manna from heaven, they eventually took it for granted.  They got tired of it.  They got bored with it, although it sustained their lives.  “Why can’t we have meat?”

When Jesus fed the multitudes with a few fish and a few loaves of bread, they took it for granted.  It wasn’t the wonder of the miracle that caused the crowds to follow him.  They followed him to feed their bellies.  It is no stretch to suppose that, if Jesus had provided an unending flow of bread and fish, the people would have eventually complained.  They would have grown bored with bread and fish.  “Why can’t we have lamb or steak?”  If the bread and fish still flowed from the basket today people would say, “Oh yeah, the bread and fish basket.  Been there done that.”

Jesus gave us more than lamb.  He gave us the Lamb of God.  He gave us himself.  “This is my body, this is my blood.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will abide in me and I in him.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life.  I give my flesh for the life of the world.  Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.”

Jesus provides an unending supply of himself to sustain us.  We take him for granted.  We get bored with him and we want something different.  We want better music, better programs, better preaching, better pews, better buildings, better parking, better feelings, better food, better fellowship and so on.  We seek to feed our bellies.  We care about our own flesh, not his.  Filling our fleshy appetites profits us nothing.  It is the spirit and the life of Christ that sustains us (Jn 6:63).

The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.”  It is the realization of what was foreshadowed by the manna and the fish and the loaves.  There is more than enough for everyone to partake of until the end of time.  It sustains us because it is Christ.  The word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.”  There is no better way to give thanks to God than to receive his Son, Jesus Christ.  We must not take the Eucharist for granted.  We must not become bored with receiving Jesus.