Thanks Be to God…Let’s Eat
Homily for Thanksgiving Day, Thursday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Preached on November 25, 2010 at Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Readings: Sirach 50:22-24; Psalm 145:2-11; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Matthew 7:7-11
Here is a truth of human nature: whenever we have something to be thankful for, we get the urge to eat and drink. Think about it: when we feel grateful, we never think that it is time to take a nap or go to the bathroom. Instead, we feel the impulse to celebrate, to raise a toast, to share a meal.
We realize from Sacred Scripture that this urge to eat and drink is our recurring response in thanksgiving to God’s Providence. In fact, it is part of a pattern that can be discerned in the history of salvation. This is how the pattern goes: First, we are stuck in a problem. God then saves us from being stuck. Thanks be to God. Let’s eat.
Think back to the Book of Exodus. We find the Israelites stuck in slavery to the Egyptians (cf. Ex. 1:12-14). God sends Moses to lead His people out of Egypt (cf. Ex. 3:7-10). The people prepare unleavened bread (matza), bitter herbs, and a roasted paschal lamb (cf. Ex. 12:3-10). They said, we will call it Passover (cf. Ex. 12:26-27). Thanks be to God. Let’s eat.
Think back to the Book of Esther. We find the Jews in danger of being annihilated by the plotting of Haman (cf. Est. 3:12-13). God uses Esther to deliver them from being wiped out from the face of the earth (cf. Est. 4:13-16). The people drink till they can no longer tell the difference between “Cursed-is-Haman” and “Blessed-is-Mordechai.” They said, we will call it Purim (cf. Est. 9:26-27). Thanks be to God. Let’s eat.
Think back to the Book of Maccabees. We find the Gentiles desecrating the Temple of Jerusalem (cf. 1 Mac. 1:20-24). God sends the brothers Maccabees to drive out the invaders and to rededicate the Temple (cf. 1 Mac. 4:36). The people light the menorah before they share the latkes and brisket. They said, we will call it Hanukkah. Thanks be to God. Let’s eat.
Time and again, whenever we faced difficulties, whenever we got ourselves in a bind, whenever we asked for the Lord’s favors or sought His grace, whenever we knocked on the gates of Heaven with our cries for deliverance, our God has never ceased to come to our aid by sending one of His servants. “For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Mt. 7:8).
Yet, in the fullness of time, God did not send a mere servant to our aid; He sent His only-begotten Son to deliver us from the ancient curse of original sin. It is in Christ Jesus that the pattern of the Old had found its fulfillment in the New: Recall how we were stuck in slavery to sin and death. Christ Crucified freed us from this captivity and gave to us the meal of His Body and Blood. The Church said, we will call it the Eucharist. Thanks be to God. Let’s eat.
Here at this table of the Lord, we receive this same Food from Heaven, we share the banquet of the Lamb of God, we have the urge to eat and drink of this Eucharist because we have so much to be thankful for to the God “who has done wondrous things on earth; who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb, and fashions them according to his will” (Sir. 50:22), who has provided for us throughout our history.
Think back to Plymouth Rock. The Pilgrims had settled in the foreign and dangerous frontier of this New World. God granted them a rich harvest and the aid of the native Americans. They shared a dinner of turkey and cranberries, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. They said, let us have Thanksgiving. Thanks be to God. Let’s eat.
Think back to the past year. We have found ourselves stuck in many a problem; we have faced many a difficulty. God has brought us this far. Thanks be to God. And is it not appropriate that we who have tasted the salt of many tears gather here for the one meal that truly satisfies, the one Thanksgiving that only our God can provide? I do not know about you, but knowing the Feast that He has in store, I cannot wait to eat.