Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We celebrate Thanksgiving this week. I have much to give thanks for — my assignment to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the welcome you’ve given me, getting to know the priests and people here and our ability to walk into hard times together with the strength the Lord Jesus gives us.
I wonder, as we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, if we might notice and ponder something together. The world today seems to be more and more frantic in its attempt to find meaning, and simultaneously less and less capable of finding it. For example, people rushed ahead to Halloween and then rushed ahead to Thanksgiving. Now, as soon as Thanksgiving is over, they’ll rush ahead to Christmas — watch the Christmas lights go up this weekend. There’s certainly something beautiful in them! But there’s something sad, too — an inability to wait or find meaning in the ordinary time between holidays.
It’s as though people are seeking a celebration that will satisfy their search for meaning. But then, finding no lasting satisfaction, they rush ahead to the next, hoping to find it there. With the increase in “nones” (people expressing no religious affiliation), and the decrease in religious attendance, there seems to be an increase in this quiet desperation.
Do we have a remedy for that? My brother and sisters, we do!
The truth and effectiveness of the remedy is contained, like a seed, in people’s experience of Thanksgiving. People arrange their schedules around Thanksgiving, and prepare for it. It can be a bit hectic. But in the midst of the celebration there comes — invariably — a moment of peace and connection that leaves us refreshed, that makes it worthwhile, that inspires us to do it all over again next year.
That moment of peace and connection — that’s what people are after. It’s a little taste of God’s presence. And people think, in their heart of hearts: “I wish I could have this every week.”
Faith speaks there, and tells us: we can!
It’s no accident that the Greek word for thanksgiving is “eucharist.” We hear the word three times in the readings for Thanksgiving Day. In 1 Corinthians 1: “I give thanks (eucharisto) to my God always on your account.” In 1 Thessalonians 5: “In all circumstances, give thanks (eucharisteite).” And in Luke 17: “One of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him (euchariston).”
Faith calls us to place the Eucharist at the center of our lives — to arrange our schedule around it, and prepare for it. It can be a bit hectic. But when we do so we experience the fruit of the Eucharist — a peace that comes to us because of our union with the Lord, and a connection with each other because of our union in Him. That’s a taste — literally — of God’s presence. And it gives us a certain peace and stability. We don’t need to rush off to the next thing, because we’ve found the meaning of life. God abides with us. We just need to make an effort to abide with Him.
The world’s rushing off to the next thing actually expresses a deep spiritual longing — a longing that can’t be fulfilled by any earthly celebration. That longing is more deeply, perfectly and abidingly fulfilled in the Eucharist. If we would live our weekly (and sometimes daily) Eucharist well — and not be afraid to speak openly about the refreshment and peace it gives us — we could offer the deepest possible remedy for the world’s deepest need.