Thanksgiving Eve, November 25, 2009  People might ask, “Do I have to go to church?” They are people who don’t know much about thanks. They don’t understand that this great God of our’s comes to us – and in order to find happiness, we need to give thanks.

Homily, Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 25, 2009

Fr. Ed Oen, C.PP.S.

One of the happiest persons I ever met was a shut-in.  I took Communion to her once a month for ten years. When I would come to her house, she would always be so happy and cheerful. She lived in a rather modest trailer house. She had diabetes so bad that one foot had to be amputated. And yet, she was a very cheerful and happy person. Every time I would prepare to leave her, she would always say, “I’m so thankful. I’m so much better off than many other people in the world.”

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Even amid all our troubles, we have to be thankful. There are always others who are worse off.

We read about the people in the gospel who needed to be cleansed. They had skin diseases of some kind. They were not able to live with other people. They had to stay away from their families. They were outcasts. Jesus saw them and he told them to go show themselves to the priests. On the way, one of them noticed he was cleansed. He went back to Jesus, glorifying God in a loud voice; he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. Jesus realized this was a Samarian. This was a person who was not supposed to be that close to God. He was a half-breed; he was not a full Jew as the rest of these people considered themselves. All the others left, but he stayed to give thanks.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul says, “We are to give thanks, always.” St. Paul had a tough life. He was hunted down by the Jewish people. He managed to always get away. He spent 36 years ministering and of those 36 years, he spent 13 either under house arrest or in prison.  In spite of all the challenges faced by St. Paul, he still gave thanks.

All of us have reason to give thanks to God. I think of that lady in the trailer house who always gave thanks because she knew she was so much better off than many others. We can say the same thing. Look around the world. There are people in more than 100 nations who survive on the equivalent of $500 or less per year. People in India and China are beginning to generally have a little more money. But so many people are living on practically nothing. They have two meals a day. The houses are one-room huts. Many people in many countries just do not have the means to go to doctors. We generally have doctors at our disposal; we have nice homes.  When we start to look around, we realize that we certainly have been blessed. We live in a country where people have freedom; we have freedom of religion, freedom of the press.

Yes, we have so many blessings. We give thanks for relatives and friends. We should be grateful for them. I know some people who do not have relatives. That’s difficult for me to comprehend because my mother was from a family of 13 and my father from a family of 11. I have always had many aunts and uncles and cousins and then my brothers and sisters. In this community especially, most people have relatives and friends living around; that is a real blessing and for that we need to be thankful to God.

The early Christians named the worship service “the Eucharist”. The word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word eucharistía which is translated to mean “thanks”. Early Christians thanked God over and over again. In our liturgy at Mass, in the preface, the priest says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.” The people say, “Let us give thanks and praise.”

People might ask, “Do I have to go to church?”  They are people who don’t know much about thanks. They don’t understand that this great God of our’s comes to us – and in order to find happiness, we need to give thanks. That’s part of our make-up – to give thanks and acknowledge somebody who has given us something. God has given us faith. He has given us the greatest gift of all – redemption.

So tonight at the Mass on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, we say “thanks”. We are so blessed. We are thankful that we have so much more than most people who have ever lived on this earth. Amend.

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