In the spirit of Thanksgiving, our country designates a day that roots us in a tradition of gratitude for the harvest, for our legacy of freedom and even collaboration between ethnic groups. The first Thanksgiving story tells us of a shared feast between the recent arrivals to this land, Pilgrims, and those who lived here previously, the Wampanoag. We tend to trace the tradition of Thanksgiving back to the fall of 1621 celebrating the new colony’s first successful harvest.
Our spiritual and religious tradition of gratitude goes back much further. Early Christians, in the midst of severe persecution, gathered together courageously amidst an increasingly hostile and violent pagan culture and the gathering became, by instinct, one of retrieving and re-telling their story (Scripture or Word) and sharing the carefully chosen vehicles of Jesus’ REAL presence, bread and wine (Meal).
As these gatherings continued and, in fact, became more and more important to their identity, their purpose and the REALization of Christ’s presence, they became OVERWHELMED with GRATITUDE; gratitude because Jesus had not simply said goodbye to them at the Last Supper, gratitude that he did not ask them to accept him one time only, gratitude that he gave himself to them in a REAL way and in a way that they, and we, can experience over and over again in the sharing of scripture and the work of the Holy Spirit for the life of the church, in Jesus’ name, forever.
Their hearts were filled with gratitude because they began to believe in this new covenant that Jesus promised would last forever. They were filled with gratitude because the gathering strengthened them amidst their fears. They were filled with gratitude because it is a gathering that both looks back at their tradition and looks forward in hope as a cornerstone of continuing what Jesus Christ promises will last forever. They were grateful because the gathering solidified who they were and who we are when we participate in it, THE BODY OF CHRIST.
Those early Christians were grateful for all kind of things that I will never know, and I am sure I have only scratched the surface in mentioning the depth of gratitude in their hearts. For all of these things and more, those early Christians called the gathering THE EUCHARIST, which means TO GIVE THANKS.
I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving Day. I hope you were able to enjoy family or friends. I hope you were able to start your Christmas shopping, and I hope that the day of Thanksgiving in some way encouraged you to give thanks for the blessings in your life, particularly if you are not feeling so thankful.
In that spirit, I would invite you to come and celebrate the Eucharist here at Holy Family on a regular basis and on more than just one day. I am sure that many of you reading this do come and are faithful to the EUCHARIST. If you do, invite others to share in the Eucharist with you. Share this article with loved ones who don’t come to church and may have either lost touch with the essence of the grateful celebration of the Eucharist or may have never known that Mass is really about being grateful for Christ’s presence in our lives, is a real way of celebrating that presence, and is as close to carrying out Jesus’ command to share his presence as we can get. The Mass is profoundly sacred because it is a way for us to share our REAL presence with each other, even people we don’t even know, but somehow DO know, because the Eucharist can urge us to see that we are all loved by the same God who longs to be with us in a REAL way.
Perhaps we all, at times, forget that we have much more to be thankful for than we realize. Perhaps we forget that we, together, are the Body of Christ. Perhaps we forget that Christ is REALLY with us. Come to celebrate the EUCHARIST with us here at Holy Family! Be grateful to God all year long!
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. The passage from the end of Matthew’s Gospel that we hear reminds us of the importance of putting our faith into action by reaching out to those in need around us. In the spirit of the great commission at the conclusion of every Mass here at Holy Family we proclaim, “The Mass never ends. We go in peace to love and serve the Lord and each other.” And our response is one of gratitude, “Thanks be to God!”
As we welcome Advent next weekend you will see the word Awaken displayed very prominently. It is an invitation to Awaken, or to have heightened awareness of many things along the journey of Advent. Awaken will be surrounded by other words that are important in the scripture readings that will be like a road leading us to the light and miracle of Christmas.
As is always the tradition, we will light the candles of the Advent wreath as each weekend liturgy begins. One of the things that we would like to Awaken to is the diversity of families within our Holy Family Catholic Community. We are inviting you and your family – whoever is in your family and however uniquely you live family – to sign up to light the candles of our Advent wreath which will be displayed on our baptismal fonts in the center aisle of church. Sign up in the Liturgy Office. Thanks!