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Reflections on Thanksgiving

November 28, 2017

Last week was Thanksgiving.  And now for the obvious Catholic connection, one that certainly appeared on our social media feeds and favorite religious hipster accounts that we were all tempted to check when the conversation on Thursday turned – probably right after seconds – to the current state of American politics…


As Catholics, the word Eucharist derives from the Greek eucharistia, which literally means “thanksgiving.” Every time we receive Jesus Christ – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – in the Eucharist, we make this act of thanksgiving to the Father for giving us His Son. 

So, as people across these somewhat United States pause on Thursday to give thanks for our freedoms and remember those who sacrifice so much, be thankful for the gifts God has given to you, use them well, be good to others, and offer these gifts back to Him within the community that is His Church.


Yet, while this is all good and true - and at the risk of sounding dismissive - haven’t we just heard it all before? With each day, we hear of one more actor, one more politician, one more government, one more university, one more angry blog, one more family member, one more addiction, one more overdose, one more Catholic…


What could there possibly be to give thanks for this year?


The Gospel for Thanksgiving Day redirects this question, saves us from any cynicism, and returns our gaze to the Lord. St. Luke writes:

“As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If this day you only knew what makes for peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes … because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”[1]


That which makes for peace is hidden not because it is missing, but because we so often forget how close it is.  Jesus weeps because He so desires to draw us into communion with His Father through the Sacrament of His Love, yet how often do we first turn to the relentless and consuming noise.


The Eucharist is our Thanksgiving!  It is precisely this overwhelming gift that should be the cause of our thanks.  Although we may have heard this message before, we must never tire of hearing it again, and again, and again.


I wasn’t able to be back home in Milwaukee for Thanksgiving this year.[2]  While I may


not have had my Mom’s home-cooked meal on Thursday, I tasted of that feast of love that knows no end. And, if that’s not enough, the same Lord that I worshiped and received at Mass that day - over here in Italy - is the same Lord whom we can worship and receive at any of our parishes, at Cor Jesu, and adore in any tabernacle in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.


The depth of this mystery, of this Sacrament, of communion with Him and with others, blows the mind and lifts up the heart.  As George Herbert writes:


Who knows not Love, let him assay,
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
        If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.[3]


Happy Thanksgiving.




[1] For your Lectio Divina, Luke 19:41-44.


[2] Don’t worry, even though the holiday is uniquely American, the Italian universities know the American seminarians have the day off. This also meant no dishes, so take that, siblings!


[3] “The Agony”. The Poetical Works Of George Herbert, ed. George Gilfillan. Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1853

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