Thanksgiving is filled with traditions. Many of us share a meal together with family. Others might take the day to attend Mass or serve our community in different ways. No matter the tradition, these activities are rooted in gratitude.
There’s also a certain importance in giving thanks to God through our prayers, especially on this day. “As in the prayer of petition, every event and need can become an offering of thanksgiving,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “The letters of St. Paul often begin and end with thanksgiving, and the Lord Jesus is always present in it: ‘Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’; ‘Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2638).
The celebration of the Eucharist, too, is an act of thanksgiving. The Greek form of the word “Eucharist” is translated as “thanksgiving” in English. As Catholics we celebrate a little thanksgiving at each Mass.
The Catechism notes that “the inexhaustible richness of this sacrament is expressed in the different names we give it. Each name evokes certain aspects of it. It is called: Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God. The Greek words eucharistein and eulogein recall the Jewish blessings that proclaim — especially during a meal — God’s works: creation, redemption, and sanctification” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1328).
In his column this week, Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski encouraged Catholics, when sharing the details of their Thanksgiving weekend with others, to talk about how Jesus, faith and community were part of the weekend. It’s a simple and natural act of evangelization when we open our hearts to others in this way.
When we do so, we’re not prosteltyzing, but simply inviting the conversation to run a little deeper. The archbishop noted that people are free to accept that invitation or not. But you’d be surprised how many people want to talk about faith and God.
This Thanksgiving, let us turn our hearts and minds toward giving thanks to God through our prayers and sharing the graces we have received through our prayers with others.