One of the great human inadequacies is our inability to give proper and adequate thanks to God. Perhaps the biggest problem is that we don’t even realize the vast majority of what He does for us; it is hidden from our eyes.
A further problem is that in our fallen condition we seem to be wired to magnify our problems and minimize or discount the enormous blessings of each moment. God sustains every fiber of our being and every atom of creation. God’s blessings are countless and yet we get angry if our iPhone malfunctions or if a few of His myriad blessings are withdrawn.
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 – The question at the heart of this Sunday’s Gospel is best expressed 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 – 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 meaning “thanksgiving.” We cannot thank God our Father adequately, but Jesus can. In every Mass, we join our meager thanksgiving to His perfect one. At every Mass, Jesus takes up the cup of salvation through the priest and shows it to us. This is the perfect and superabundant thanks to the Father that only Jesus can offer. In every Mass, Jesus joins us to His perfect sacrifice of thanks. That is how we give thanks in a way commensurate with the manifold blessings we have received.
Hidden Mass – The Gospel for this day makes the 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. The Gospel contains all the essential elements of Holy Mass. It is about giving thanks and reminds us once again that it is the Mass that is the perfect thanksgiving, the perfect “Eucharist.”
Let’s look and see how it is a Mass:
1. Gathering – Ten lepers (symbolizing 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. In the person of the priest, who is the sacrament, the sign of His presence, Jesus walks the aisle of our church just as He walked those ancient roads.
2. Kyrie – The lepers cry out for mercy, just as we do at every Mass. Lord, have mercy! Jesus, Master, have pity on us!
3. Liturgy of the Word – Jesus quotes Scripture and then applies it to their lives, just as He does for us at every Mass. (In saying, “Go show yourselves to the priests,” Jesus is referencing Leviticus 13, which gives detailed instructions on how the priests of old were to diagnose leprosy or its having been cured.) Yes, this is what we do at every Mass: we listen to the Lord Jesus, through the priest or deacon, proclaiming God’s Word and then applying it to our lives.
4. Liturgy of the Eucharist – The Gospel relates 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 along with Him, give thanks to the Father. As we have noted, the word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek and means “thanksgiving.” Here is the perfect thanks rendered to the Father. Those who claim that they can stay home and give adequate thanks to God should be rebuked for being prideful. Only Jesus can give perfect thanks to the Father, and we can only give adequate thanks by following Jesus’ command to “Do this in memory of me.” We have to be at Mass.
5. Ite, missa est – Finally, Jesus sends the thankful leper 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, go in peace.”
So, there it is. Within this Gospel, which 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, the right place to do it is at Mass. Only at Mass 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). Yes, 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.
Cross-posted at the Catholic Standard: How to Give God Perfect Thanks – A Homily for the 28th Sunday of the Year
6 Replies to “How to Give God Perfect Thanks – A Homily for the 28th Sunday of the Year”
Sensational…wish all Catholics and non-Catholics could read
this…..Daily Mass would be overflowing with people….
Jesus is spelling all this out in the story of the 10 lepers, if
only we have eyes to see…
The cited verse (Psalm 116:12) is the perfect prayer between receipt our Lord’s Body and his most precious Blood.
Dr. David Anders, convert to the Catholic Church, and the most excellent apologist on EWTN’s Called to Communion puts a lot of emphasis on the perfect sacrifice of the mass just as you do in this excellent article. In the “spirit of Vatican II” emphasis has been on gathering at the table as a family of God. Since the perfect sacrifice depends the real presence of Christ in the appearance of bread and wine and we know the sad numbers from the recent Pew survey on the belief of Catholics in the real presence, it goes to follow that a survey of Catholics would show that few would understand the perfect sacrifice of the mass. I think in the age of me, me , me the teaching of the perfect sacrifice of the mass would appeal to many who seek something transcendent.
Psalm 116 is very close to my heart and I read it often in times of trouble. I can’t help notice it sounds similar in many ways to Jonah 2 which is the prayer of Jonah from inside the fish to God.
Hope it is okay to add this:
16 O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
18 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.
19 In the courts of the LORD’s house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.
5 The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.
6 I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.
7 When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.
8 They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.
9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.
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