Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Homily

[This is the text of my homily for Thanksgiving Day 2007]

Some of the first words you learn in any foreign language are the words to say, “Thank you.” We need these words because in a foreign land, we are very much at the mercy of those who know the place, so it is appropriate to show some humility by acknowledging the free assistance others give us.

In our own land, it is harder to say ‘thank you’. This humility that is easy to recognize when we are lost in a strange place is for the opposite reason very difficult to recognize in a place where we know the rules and can take care of ourselves. Our culture encourages us not to be thankful. When the economy needs stimulus, we figure that there must be some technique to fixing it, and we talk about tax breaks and interest rates. We don’t talk about asking God for an increase in productivity and prosperity. Productivity, after all, is not something that automatically follows from economic policy. When you get down to it, our economy is about real people like you and me cooperating in doing our best for others.

In a simple economy, where I give you one of my steers for sixty bushels of your grain, it is easier to see this effort on the part of my neighbor. We, however, live in a trade economy and all kinds of efforts are hidden from view. We all like to complain about potholes and the lack of snowplows. How many of us are grateful for the efforts of road construction workers and snowplow drivers? Or, for that matter, for the people whose job is it to build snow plows, graters, cement trucks, and steam rollers? Or to mine and refine the raw materials that make the parts of the snowplows? Or the ‘pencil-pushers’ who take care of the difficult logistics of shipping raw material to manufacturers or manufactured goods to dealers and buyers?

We even tend to take for granted the work done by the people near us. We forget to be grateful to a spouse who cooked dinner or did laundry or ran to the store, or who goes to work everyday. We figure: well, they were supposed to do that. To say “thank you,” remember, is an act not only of kindness, but of humility. It is recognizing that I am incomplete without you. I need you. This might seem like a debasing thing for a person to do. But let us remember that animals don’t say thank you. It is humility that makes homo sapiens into a human person fully alive.

If you were in Greece and you needed to say ‘Thank you,” you would say, “Eucharisto.” In the Greek language, many ‘u’ sounds have changed into ‘v’ sounds, so you might not have recognized the fact that this is a word that you and I and countless Christians around the world use all the time. The word in ancient Greek is “Eucharisto.” This is what we do each time we gather at the altar of God. We give Him thanks because behind every gift of food, shelter, friendship or assistance stands the One giver of all good things. It is our glory, our great privilege to know this God and to give thanks to Him in true humility.

1 comment:

Watcher said...

Thank you for this homily! This morning it occurred to me that your writing reminds me of that of Thomas Merton, particularly his early-to-middle years.


This blog is published with ecclesiastical approval.

If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
Locations of visitors to this page