THANKSGIVING HOMILY: Love Makes Us Be. Called to be a People of Thanksgiving
spiritual. After all, God is the Creator of all and the Author of life. He is also the source of all that is good - whether He is acknowledged to be so or not. As the beloved disciple John said "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God." (1 John 1:4-7)
We will love today. We will reach out to one another and to the less fortunate. When we choose to love, we participate in the love of God. This is true for even those who do not - yet - acknowledge Him. We will give thanks today, for all the great gifts we have received. As we do, we draw His presence more deeply into our daily life together. Love and gratitude are the keys to unlock the deeper meaning of life and the goodness of this day.
The smell of turkey will soon fill this home as it will homes around this beautiful Nation. It arises from the early preparation of the gravy and dressing and lingers throughout the day. Our daughter will make the meal, using her mother's recipes, and adding her own. The table will soon be set for the Feast. And what a wonderful Feast it is - this unique American celebration called Thanksgiving. It is a rather extraordinary tradition. An entire Nation, in the beauty of all of its rich diversity and pluralism, pauses as one - to love and to give thanks for all of our blessings and our bounty.
We gather to express our gratitude for our health, our happiness and our life together. Around tables throughout America, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will gather with mothers and fathers, Grandpas and Grandmas, extended family, neighbors and friends to thank God and one another. And then, we all feast; not only on the food, but even more importantly, on the gift of the love which informs all family relationships and true friendships, the real source of lasting joy.
As Chiara Lubich, Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict remind us, we were indeed made for love. It is no accident that the first encyclical letter authored by Benedict XVI was entitled "God is Love." Love is the very meaning of life and loving is the very essence of what it means to be a human person.
Love will call us to share our stories in countless homes throughout the United States and abroad this Thanksgiving day. Even the times that seemed so painful and difficult when lived in love, take on new beauty. Time has a way of revealing the mysterious plan of a loving God who was at work - not in spite of those problems but through them - drawing us closer to Him, to each other and to what really matters most in life.
On this "secular" holiday, infused as it is with such profoundly religious meaning, Catholic Christians should really take some time to reflect on the fact that the Greek word from which we derive the word "Eucharist" is rendered "Thanksgiving" in English. The Catechism reminds us "The inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called: Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein and eulogein recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim - especially during a meal - God's works: creation, redemption, and sanctification." (CCC #1328)
How appropriate. In that Sacrament of Sacraments, we receive Jesus Christ in His fullness, the greatest gift of the Father. And, we are called to give thanks. In the words of the Apostle Paul to the early Christians we are reminded to "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thess. 5:16-18) One of the ways Christians do this is to become people who choose to live our lives for others. When we give thanks we learn to love.
Today the Church calls her faithful sons and daughters to give thanks in her Liturgy. St. Teresa was fond of saying "We will not learn how to love if we are not grateful." The Readings for the Mass for Thanksgiving call us to gratitude. Jesus, in His Sacred humanity shows us how to live a life of gratitude and, through the gift of Himself - makes it all possible.
Blessed John Paul II affirmed in a message he gave on July 29, 1987, "In the truest sense we can say that the prayer of the Lord and his entire earthly existence become a revelation of the fundamental truth: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights" (James 1:17). Thanksgiving is the source of all blessings from on high. 'Let us give thanks to the Lord our God' is (the) invitation the Church places at the centre of the Eucharistic liturgy."
Cultivating a disposition of gratitude and a way of living our lives in love for others - such as what was demonstrated in the lives of Chiara Lubich, Blessed John Paul II and now in the life of Pope Benedict XVI - is the key to living our earthly lives to the full. It also prepares us for eternity. We will be reminded again in the prayer of the priest in the Preface of the Mass for Thanksgiving Day:
"Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks through Jesus Christ our Lord. We offer you, Father, this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for the gifts you have granted us. Help us to recognize them as the benefits we have received from you through no merit of our own" (Prayer over the Gifts)
Let us choose to make this prayer our own today. Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers, may it be a day for love and gratitude. No matter how difficult the challenges we face, we have so very much to be grateful for. As we give thanks, we find the strength we need to love even more fully.
As we give thanks, we discover how to be faithful to our call to continue the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ, Love Incarnate, in an age hungering for the fullness of God's love. Christians are called to take the kernel which lies at the heart of this Holiday and plant it in the field of the world; so that it can bear the fruit which it points toward. We are called to give thanks and we are called to love with the very Love of God in which all human love is revealed and through which all human love is perfected.
Learning to Love is learning to Live. We are called to be a People of Thanksgiving.We are called to love. Happy Thanksgiving.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Thanksgiving, Love, Focalare, Chiara Lubich, Blessed John Paul II, Eucharist, Joy, Family, Love, Deacon Keith Fournier
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