One of the great human inadequacies is rendering proper and adequate thanks to God. Perhaps the biggest problem is that we don’t even know 90% of what he does for us. It is hid from our eyes. A further problem is that we tend, in our fallen condition, to be wired to magnify our distresses and problems and minimize or discount the enormous blessings of each moment. God sustains every fiber of our being and every atom of creation, his hidden blessings are countless. But we get angry if our iPod is malfunctioning or if one or two out of the trillion blessings he gives is withdrawn.
But in the end an old gospel song says it well:
I’ve got so much to thank God for; So many wonderful blessings and so many open doors. A brand new mercy along with each new day. That’s why I praise You and for this I give You praise. For waking me up this morning , For starting me on my way, For letting me see the sunshine, of a brand new day. That’s why I praise You and for this I give You praise. So many times You´ve met my needs, So many times You rescued me. That’s why I praise You.
For every mountain You brought me over For every trial you’ve seen me through. For every blessing, For this I give You praise
Fundamental Question – So here is the question at the heart of today’s Gospel. It is best asked in the Book of Psalms: What return shall I make to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? The same psalm goes on to answer the question in this way: The cup of salvation I will take up and call on the name of the Lord. (Psalm 116:12)
The Mass is signified – Yes indeed, how can I possibly thank the Lord for all the good he has done for me? Notice that the psalm points to the Eucharist in saying, The cup of salvation I will take up….” As you know the word “Eucharist” is a Greek word which means, “thanksgiving.” We cannot thank God the Father adequately, but Jesus can. And in every Mass we join our meager thanksgiving to his perfect thanksgiving. Jesus takes up the cup of salvation and shows it to us at every Mass through the priest. This is the perfect and superabundant thanks that only Jesus can offer the Father. And he joins us to his perfect sacrifice of thanks in every Mass. This is how we give thanks in a way commensurate with the manifold blessings we have received.
Hidden Mass! – Now the Gospel makes this point, that the Mass is the perfect offering of thanks to the Father, in a remarkable and almost hidden way. But for Catholics it is right there for us to see if we have eyes to see it. For the Gospel today contains all the essential elements of Holy Mass. In so doing, this Gospel about giving thanks reminds us once again that it is the Mass which is the perfect thanksgiving, the perfect “Eucharist.” Let’s look and see how it is a Mass:
- Gathering – Notice first that there is a gathering. Ten lepers (us) have gathered and Jesus comes near as he passes on his way. We do this in every Mass, we gather and the Lord draws near. Indeed, in the person of the priest, who is the sacrament, the sign of his presence, Jesus walks the aisle of our Church just like he walked those ancient roads.
- Kyrie – Next they cry out for mercy just like we do at every Mass: Lord have mercy! Jesus, Master, have pity on us!
- Liturgy of the Word – Next Jesus quotes Scripture and then applies it to their life just like he does for us at every Mass. In saying, “Go show yourselves to the priests” Jesus is referencing Leviticus 14 which gives detailed instructions on how the priests of old were to diagnose leprosy and also its having been cured. Jesus quotes this scripture and applies it to their life. This is what we do at every Mass wherein God’s Word is proclaimed and then the Lord Jesus, speaking through the priest or deacon, applies the text(s) to our life.
- Liturgy of the Eucharist – Next, the text says that one of them: fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. This is what we do during the Eucharistic prayer, we kneel and thank Jesus, and also, with Jesus, give thanks to the Father. As we have noted, the word “Eucharist” comes from Greek and means “to give thanks.” Here is the perfect thanks rendered to the Father. To those who say they can stay home and give adequate thanks to God, there should only be the rebuke that they are prideful. Only Jesus can give perfect thanks to the Father. And we can only give adequate thanks to Jesus by following his command to “do this in memory of me.” We have to be at Mass.
- Ite Missa est – Finally, Jesus sends him on his way, saying Stand up and go; your faith has saved you. We too are sent forth by Jesus at the end of every Mass when He speaks through the priest or deacon: “The Mass is ended, God in peace.”
So, there it is. In this Gospel that very clearly instructs us to give thanks to God is the very structure of the Mass. If you want to give proper thanks to God and you made it to Mass this morning, you’re in the right place. Only here is perfect and proper thanks given to God.
It was all prefigured in the psalm long ago: What return shall I make to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up and call on the name of the Lord (Psalm 116:12). It is the very cup of salvation, the chalice containing Christ’s blood that is held up at every Mass. It is the perfect sacrifice of thanks. It is the prescribed sacrifice of praise. It is the proper sacrifice of praise.
This video is of the Song I quoted above: