Thanksgiving of Mass should guide our lives
The first two words that most of us as babies learn to speak with consistency are "No!" and "Mine!" Later on, as our vocabulary expands, we say it in a different way: "I don’t want to! I don’t have to! I can’t! I won’t!" or "This is mine!"
Our earliest frame of reference is that it’s all about me: my feelings, my needs, my success, my happiness, my relationships, my way.
Growing up is really about learning some new words: "Yes" and "Ours" and "Yours" and "Please." And what may be the hardest words to learn — and truly mean: "Thank you."
Each time we gather at Mass, we come to express our gratitude, to say "thank you" to God. This is the meaning of the Greek word "Eucharist." Like the Samaritan in this Sunday’s Gospel and Naaman the Syrian in our first reading, we seek to express our deepest thanks to God.
Our motives might be mixed and we might not be feeling particularly grateful at that moment. But at the deepest level of faith, we know that we’re not at Mass primarily to be entertained or even inspired, but to give thanks with each other in Christ.
Though we may not have explicit awareness of it, God has been part of our lives during the previous week, in our joys and struggles, in our excitement and our tedium. Together we give thanks in prayer and acknowledge the One from whom all blessings flow.
At the conclusion of Mass, we will hear the invitation to "Go forth, glorifying the Lord by your life." Similarly, Jesus told the Samaritan leper: "Get up and go your way."
In other words, the thanksgiving and gratitude we humbly and prayerfully have expressed is now to become the focus of our attitude and actions in our daily lives.
The more we understand that everything is a gift from God, the more we live with our gratitude and thankfulness expressed in loving and selfless service, and in generous stewardship. The 12th verse of Psalm 116 states it well: "How can I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?"
Father Dennis Hanneman is a retired priest of the archdiocese living in Omaha. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.