Thanksgiving Day

Homily for Thanksgiving Day

by Fr. Tommy Lane

We have many reasons to give thanks to God today. We petition God often; today is a day to give thanks. The texts of our liturgy today remind us of the many reasons we have to thank God. In the Collect (Opening Prayer) we heard,

Father all-powerful,
your gifts of love are countless
and your goodness infinite.

In the Prayer over the Offerings we will hear,

God our Father,
from whose hand we have received generous gifts

and in the Prayer after Communion we will hear,

you have shown us the depths of your love for all your children.

In popular legend, Thanksgiving is associated with those who crossed the Atlantic in the Mayflower for a new life in this country. Their journey reminds us of a journey in Sacred Scripture. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that the rest which the Hebrews found in Canaan after leaving Egypt was not the final rest (Heb 4). There is a sabbath rest for God’s people, the rest at the end of our lives. The journey from Egypt to Canaan was really anticipating the journey we all make as Christians. Just as the Hebrews crossed through the water during the Exodus, in Baptism we make the exodus water crossing to a new life in Christ. Metaphorically we wander for forty years in the desert of this life, and at the end we cross the Jordan into the Promised Land of Heaven. We are able to make the water crossing of Baptism and the crossing to the next life because of what Jesus did for us. In the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer today we will hear,

In Jesus, through his Death and Resurrection,
we find our ultimate redemption,
freedom from sin,
and every blessing.

Our first reading today from the Letter to the Ephesians said,

In him we have redemption by his blood,
the forgiveness of transgressions,
in accord with the riches of his grace
that he lavished upon us (Eph 1:7-8)

So today we want, above all, to give thanks to God for what he has done for us in Jesus. And the greatest and best prayer to give thanks to God is the Eucharist. The very word “Eucharist” means “Giving Thanks.” Every time we come to Mass, we unite ourselves in thanksgiving with the sacrifice of Jesus to his Father.

As we give thanks to God united with Jesus in his sacrifice during this Eucharist, we remember those who are not doing as well as we are. We remember those who do not have enough food, those who have lost everything in disasters, those who will miss from their Thanksgiving table today a loved one who has passed this year. The texts of our liturgy today remind us to remember all others today who are in need. In the Collect we heard,

open our hearts to have concern
for every man, woman, and child,
so that we may share your gifts in loving service.

and in the Prayer over the Offerings we will hear,

and let the perfect sacrifice of Jesus
draw us closer to all our brothers and sisters in the human family.

and in the Prayer after Communion we will hear,

help us, we pray, to reach out in love to all your people,
so that we may share with them
the good things of time and eternity.

These prayers echo the words of Jesus in our Gospel today,

love one another as I love you. (John 15:12)

© Fr. Tommy Lane 2018

This homily was delivered in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.