Summary: We may be tempted to look only at the secular gifts we might consider gracious benefits of God. But they pale by comparison to God's spiritual gifts.
Thanksgiving Day 2018
“Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, who wondrous things as done, in whom His world rejoices.” These words from the great hymn written in German by the Protestant pastor Martin Rinkart, and translated into English by the Protestant Catherine Winkworth, are a paraphrase of our first reading. The reading is taken from the book of Sirach, which is only accepted as inspired Scripture by Catholics and a few others. So in a real way it is a great ecumenical hymn of praise and thanks shared by all Christians.
In this hymn, as in the psalm and other readings, we join the tenth leper, coming to Our Lord to thank Him for all He has done for us. There is so much to be grateful for as we end the Church Year of 2018. We may be tempted to look only at the secular gifts we might consider gracious benefits of God. Republicans may be grateful they still have the Presidency and the Senate. Democrats may give thanks they have taken back the House of Representatives, and that they still have the support of mainstream media. But that would be horribly short-sighted. Do you see anything in the Scriptures like thanks for a politician’s ascendance? No, the Bible tells us not to put our trust in political leaders. “Put not your faith in princes, in the son of man in whom there is no salvation.” Indeed, the only Son of Man we can put our trust in is the ultimate Ben Adam, the beginning and the end of sons of men, Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One from whom all unequivocal gifts come. He is the One who never disappoints, because He gives us what is truly important: hope in everlasting life with God.
At some point in every person’s life, he or she must come to the realization of sin. I have sinned; you have sinned. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God. All of us have joined in the rebellion stirred up in the first humans by our great adversary, Satan. We can’t be healed of the gaping wound in our soul that sin causes by a politician, a political party, or an act of legislation. The wall we erect in our hearts is not one to keep out illegal immigrants. That wall is there to keep out the life of God, to keep us walled-up within ourselves, unable to praise God or help others unselfishly.
The good news is that God loves us so much that He does whatever it takes to enable us to tear down that wall, to open our hearts to grace. Consider for a moment what God has placed in your life this year that is actually a call to repent. It may be a word from a friend or a spouse. It may be an event in your life like a broken relationship, a family death or illness. It was something in the past months that slapped you on the side of the head and told you to wake up to God’s grace.
If you have responded to that call to repentance, to change, then you should give thanks today for that divine gift. If you have not responded, what are you waiting for? The grace of forgiveness is available to you all the time. If it is a serious rupture of your relationship with God, the sacrament of reconciliation is celebrated weekly here, and available with just a phone call to the parish. If it is a real but not total turning away from God, then simply repenting in your heart and coming to communion will wipe it away, restoring and refreshing your soul with the life of Christ.
We are all in the company of the ten lepers, healed by God and called to show ourselves to the priests, to the community. We are all called to be that tenth leper, coming now to the altar of God to give thanks. From our mothers’ arms, God has blessed us on our way with gracious gifts of love. And He is still ours, today and every day of our lives.