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  • Writer's pictureImmersed in Christ

Give Thanks, Always and All Ways

Friday, August 18, 2023

by Fr. David M. Knight

View readings for Friday, 19th Week of Ordinary Time: LECTIONARY no. 417 (Jos 24: 1-13; Ps 136: 1-3, 16-18, 21-22, 24; Mt 19: 3-12), The Responsorial (Psalm 136) and Joshua 24:1-13 list the favors God did for his People from “times past” until their entrance into the Promised Land. Joshua concludes: “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.” The psalm just keeps repeating, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good.” Both show the intrinsic connection between remembering what God has done and giving thanks — in word and action. “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving,” the word that, “as early as the Didache and Ignatius of Antioch... came to designate what had hitherto been referred to as ‘the Lord’s supper.’” Its ultimate intelligibility, however... depends on grasping the essential fact that all gratitude is the child of memory, that eucharistia is inseparable from anamnesis (remembrance).[i] In the Institution Narrative we recall what Jesus did with thanksgiving.[ii] The Mass text reads: “Before he was given up to death... he took bread and gave you thanks.... When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise....” In the ritual that was the anticipation — and later the memorial — of his suffering and death, Jesus “gave thanks.” The liturgy adds, “and praise.” What does this tell us? It tells us Christian worship is based on an event, the death and resurrection of Jesus. For us, “salvation” does not come through some philosophy or way of altering consciousness, or even of reforming our behavior, but through the mystery of that event. The event was the act of a person — of a person’s love. So to get to the heart of our religion we remember what that person did for us in love, and we first of all give thanks. Jesus “gave thanks” as he entered into that event. He gave thanks even though for him it meant suffering and death. And so do we. “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” We join Jesus in giving thanks for the mystery of God’s love.

And we join him in the event. We unite ourselves to him in his act of offering himself and us, incorporated into his body by Baptism. In Eucharist, as in Baptism, we “die” and “rise” in Christ. We say with him, “This is my body, given up for you.” And we give thanks.

In Matthew 19:3-12 Jesus tells us what “covenant” means in the sacramental mystery of marriage. In marriage each spouse says to the other as Jesus said to his bride on the cross, “This is my body, given up for you.” In Christian marriage we respond, in an applied way, to his command to “do this in memory of me.” We offer our bodies to one another. Literally, our “flesh for the life of the world.” We pledge ourselves to love, even if it is sometimes crucifying, and through love to give life — to each other, to any children we have, and by the love we grow into, to the whole human race. And we give thanks. Matrimony is Eucharist.

Initiative: Give thanks always, remembering God’s deeds. Begin with Eucharist.

[i] S. Marrow, S.J. The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, Liturgical Press 1990, “Eucharist in Scripture.” The Didache was a first-century summary of the “Teaching of the Apostles.” Ignatius was a disciple of John the Evangelist, martyred c. 107 A.D. [ii] All accounts contain the word eucharistesas, “having given thanks.” See Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, Luke 22:19, 2Corinthians 11:24.

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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