November 28, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thanksgiving Day
(Sirach 50:22-24) Reading II (1 Corinthians 1:3-9)
Gospel (St. Luke 17:11-19)
Today as we take time out as a country to give thanks to God for all of the graces and blessings that He has bestowed upon us, we recall that for us, as Catholic people, to give thanks is something that we do constantly. It is not something we do only once a year but it is something we do every day. And it is something, in fact, which the Church does at every moment of every day because somewhere on the face of the earth at every single moment of the day, every day, Mass is being offered, people are praying, hymns of thanksgiving are being offered to God. So in a special way as we come today before Our Lord, we call this to mind in a particular manner. And of all the things that we have to be grateful for, certainly we need to be grateful for things that we take so much for granted, such as our lives, spouses, children, grandchildren, all the various blessings that the Lord has given to us.
On behalf of the other priests of the parish, I also extend our gratitude to all of you. How grateful we are for your faithfulness, for your union with Christ. You make our jobs much easier when you are trying to do what is right, when you are trying to grow in holiness, when you want to be able to hear the Word of God and to put it into practice in your lives. It is a very difficult thing to stand up and preach to people who do not want to hear it. But it sure makes my life a lot more pleasant when I get to stand up and preach to people who do want to hear the Gospel. So I am very, very grateful to each one of you and to all the members of our parish for that kind of faithfulness and that desire to serve Our Lord by embracing the Gospel message.
Still, even with that, we need to look at our own lives and challenge ourselves even more, to be able to look at what Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading. We hear about the ten lepers who are cleansed and only one returns to be able to thank Our Lord. And so as we look at our own spiritual leprosy, we ask ourselves, first of all, "How often do we come to Our Lord to be cleansed? That is, how often do we come before Him with our sins and cry out, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!'? How often do we bring our sins before the Lord to confess them and to receive His forgiveness?"
And when we recognize the mercy of God, then we need to ask ourselves, "How often do we come before Him to give Him thanks?" Of all the things we have to be grateful for - and they are way too many to be counted; as the psalmist would say regarding the thoughts of God, "To number them I must be eternal like You," and "They are more than the sand on the shore of the sea" - if we were to start thinking about how many things we really need to thank God for, we would spend the rest of our lives just simply counting them.
But of all the things, there are two in a special way that on this planet we need to be most grateful for. One is Our Blessed Lady, and two is Our Blessed Lord - not in that order. We need to be so grateful to God for giving to us our Mother, for her care and intercession for each one of us, for her fidelity to the Lord, for her saying "yes" to God that she would bear the Savior of the world so that each one of us could have salvation. We have to be grateful to God for Our Lady who continues in her motherly care for all of her children, as she prays for us and she helps us along the way that she has already walked. We have to be so grateful that there is one human person that lived the way God wants all of us to live and who stands, not only as the exemplar, but as the one who calls each one of us to be united with her in glorifying God, in thanking Him, and in praising Him.
Then how grateful we must be to God for His love, His humility, His mercy in becoming one of us, in living with us, in dying for us, in opening Heaven for us and yet continuing to remain with us. As we come to Mass week after week to give thanks and praise to God for the most glorious gift of the Most Holy Eucharist that He has given to us to remain with us all days until the end of the world, even then we have to ask ourselves, "How often do we come back? How often do we come to visit Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament?" Are we like the nine lepers who recognize that He is the Lord and we cry out, "Jesus, Lord, have mercy on us!" and when He does we just carry on our merry way. Or are we like the one who recognized what the Lord had done for him and, therefore, we come before Him in the Eucharist often, even daily if possible, to be able to pray, to be able to unite our hearts more perfectly to the Lord, to give Him the thanks and praise that are due simply because of Who He is, and even more, for what He has done for us.
He is right here in the Eucharist, 24 hours a day, simply waiting for us. The Eucharist, of course, means "thanksgiving". Jesus, in giving thanks to His Father for each one of us, offered Himself in the Blessed Sacrament not only as a sacrifice, but as a means of His abiding Presence because He was so grateful to God for you. Now, each one of us needs to ask, "How grateful to God am I for Him? If He loves me so much, if He is so thankful to God - as He makes clear in His high priestly prayer in Saint John's Gospel in chapter 17 - so thankful for me to His Father that He would give Himself to me in such an incredible manner, how thankful to God am I for Him? And how much do I give myself to Him and how often?"
As we stop to think about all of the gifts that God has given to us and we come before Him today most appropriately to say "Thank You", we need now to look even beyond and ask if our lives are a constant sacrifice of thanks and praise to God, if we are really living what it is that we profess, if we recognize what God has done for us, and if we are giving the appropriate thanks daily that we should. Not just taking time out once a year, not just taking the time once a week, but having time set aside everyday to unite ourselves with God's two greatest gifts: His Son and His mother, and giving thanks to God from hearts that have been forgiven, that recognize His mercy and understand the necessity of coming to Him daily to say "Thank You".
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.