The Holy Mass: The Perfect Thanksgiving

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin - Without a Doubt
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How can I repay the Lord for all the good he has done for me? I will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.

(Ps 116: 12-13)

There are several good reasons why faithful Catholics attend Mass every Sunday.

First, because it’s the pivotal way of fulfilling the Third Commandment, “Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.” There are many ways in which we fulfill that Commandment – by avoiding unnecessary work and shopping; by doing acts of charity; by spending time with our family and friends; by resting and relaxing; but most of all, by joining the faith community at Sunday Mass for worship of the Living God. Keep in mind, that despite our tendency these days to avoid commitments and dismiss obligations, there’s still a serious obligation for Catholics to attend Holy Mass on Sundays — barring illness or other serious obstacle of course.

Another reason to attend Mass on Sunday is to hear the Word of God. At every Sunday Mass the Scriptures are proclaimed and a homily is preached. Some sermons are inspiring — powerful and challenging applications of the Word of God; others not so much. But in every case, an open heart and discerning mind will find something of value in the Word of God.

The supreme reason to attend Mass on Sunday is to receive the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you do not have life within you.” (Jn 6: 53) The Eucharist is sheer gift, a source and sign of God’s love! And as St. John Paul wrote so beautifully, “What more could Jesus have done for us? Truly, in the Eucharist, he shows us a love which goes to the end, a love which has no measure.” (The Church of the Eucharist, #11)

It amazes me, and saddens me, how many Catholics neglect this gift of divine life and love by not attending Holy Mass on Sundays.

Another reason to attend Holy Mass every Sunday is to be part of the Church, part of this family of faith that Jesus established. Entrance into this family begins of course with Baptism but the bonds of faith and love are renewed every time we meet our brothers and sisters in common worship at the Lord’s Table. It’s this community of faith that walks with us in good times and bad, in moments of joy and sorrow, sickness and health, life and death.

In this season, though, it seems particularly appropriate to recall that one of the main reasons to attend Holy Mass every Sunday is to give thanks and praise to God. “The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means, first of all, thanksgiving.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1360)

So often we take our gifts for granted, don’t we? We go about our daily lives as ungrateful louts, presuming that everything will be okay, presuming that we have a right to everything we have. We don’t think very often about the gifts we’ve received until they’re threatened in some way, or until we lose them completely. Our national holiday of Thanksgiving at least gives us the opportunity to pause, reflect upon our blessings and give thanks.

Stop, right now and think about your gifts: your faith, your freedom, your family and friends; your health and home, your security and safety; your material blessings and the opportunities you’ve enjoyed — for education, travel, entertainment and recreation. Everything is a gift of God; you should presume nothing and treasure it all!

One of the ways that we show our awareness is by taking care of our gifts and not wasting them, not squandering them. If something is precious to you, take care of it! And a truly grateful person is also a generous person. Gratitude moves us to share our gifts – our time, our talent, and our material resources, with those who have less.

When we become aware of all the blessings we’ve received a spirit of joy washes over us. A grateful person can’t also be a chronic crank! Pope Francis put it this way: “Joy springs from a grateful heart. Truly, we have received much, so many graces, so many blessings, and we rejoice in this. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves — are we good at counting our blessings?”

God has been so good to us, but our limited vision and impoverished imaginations sometimes make it hard for us to recognize that and to give thanks. How can we begin? Well, in the psalm quoted above we find the answer: We “take up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.”

In other words we pray, we worship and we lift up the cup of salvation in the Eucharist. At every Mass the priest says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” And we respond, “It is right and just.” And indeed it is.

So, want to have a really nice Thanksgiving this year? Start the day with Holy Mass at your local parish or other church in the vicinity. And attend Mass every Sunday. It will help you to be a good and grateful person throughout the year.