Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homily for Thanksgiving By Jerry Franzen Cathedral 11/23/06

Sirach 50: 22-24  1 Corinthians 1: 3-9  Luke 17: 11-19

A boy was standing on a pier when a huge wave came crashing in
and swept him off into the water, deep water.
A man on shore saw what had happened and rushed out on to the pier,
dove into the water and saved the boy.
Several days later the boy and his mother came to the pier,
looking for the man.
When they found the man, the mother said,
“Are you the one who saved my boy?”
The man replied, “Yes, I dove into the water and pulled him ashore.”
The mother said. “Then, where’s his hat.”


It seems that the mother forgot something,
the same something that nine of the ten lepers forgot.
She forgot to say, “Thanks.”

If I may be allowed to use the term “lesson”
for what I am about to do, then,
I would say that today’s lesson is
on not forgetting to say “Thanks”, on how we say “Thanks,”
and on why we say thanks.

When I was in grade school,
I learned that Thanksgiving was a time to recelebrate
the religious and political freedom
that the Pilgrims celebrated at the first Thanksgiving.

We did that by getting together for a big meal,
and it did mean two days off from school.
Someone probably told me
that this was a time for ME to give thanks,
but that probably went in one ear and right out the other.
I treated Thanksgiving in the same as way
that we treat the celebration of the Fourth of July.
We recelebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence
with picnics, parades and fireworks.
We don’t have to declare again our independence each July 4th.

Thanksgiving is a time for each of us to give thanks -
Thanks to those who help us everyday -
family members, friends, employers, doctors, nurses, priests
and most importantly God, who is the source of all the help we get.
Sirach thanked God for
fostering “people’s growth from their mother’s womb,”
and for fashioning “them according to his will.”
Paul thanked God for all of the grace-filled gifts
God had bestowed on the Corinthians.
Today is a day for each of us to give thanks to God
for all the ordinary things he provides for us each day,
most of which we take for granted,
and for the special gifts he has given each of us.
We can say, “Thanks,” so easily and readily
to another person who does something for us.
We must not forget God.
We might do this in the form of a prayer that says “thanks.”
It’s the way we should start and finish each day,
thanking God for the gift of life at the beginning of the day,
and for all that he provided for us throughout the day
at the end of our day.

In the last 20-30 years something new has been added to Thanksgiving.
There is an emphasis on contributions, mainly food,
to those in need.
This has grown out of a realization
that there are some who cannot afford food everyday,
while there are others of us who have plenty for a big meal.

It’s easy to just say, “Thanks”.
But our generous actions speak a much louder “Thanks.”
These donations are also our prayers of thanks in return to God.
What we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do for God.


So, I have come to understand that Thanksgiving
not only reminds me of the Pilgrims
and their giving thanks to God,
but it also reminds me to give thanks to God.
Our prayers of thanks are made in words and in actions.

But, why do we give thanks?
We give thanks as a way of recognizing
that someone else has done something good for us.
It helps to build our relationship with the other person.
Whether we thank God directly or through another person,
giving thanks, it helps us to build our relationship with God.


For me,
the best description of how this builds our relationship with God
goes something like this:
God does something for us. It happens every minute of every day.
God gives something to us, the air we breathe, the food we eat.
We give thanks to God in return.
We may just say, “Thank you, God.”

Many times we do something in thanksgiving,
For example: donating food for the poor
Or using our gifts in service to God.
We might describe this relationship with God by a circle,
the most nearly perfect figure.
God gives to us in a semicircular path, half of the circle;
rarely do we receive gifts directly from God.
They often come indirectly through others.
God’s gifts to us often to do not come directly;
they often come indirectly.
We return our “thanks” in the form of something we do,
not something done directly for God,
but again in a semicircular path,
something done for our neighbor.
It’s natural that we would return thanks
for something God has done for us by doing something for God.
We complete the circle, our relationship with God.

I would like to add one further aspect to this description.
The completion of the circle seems to lead us back to where we started.
But as our relationship with God progresses around the circle,
I see the path rising
so that a completion of one cycle
brings us back to a point higher than we started.

Our relationship with God is brought to a new level
by our giving thanks.
This is exactly what happened between Jesus and the leper.
In the first semicircle, Jesus healed the leper;
the relationship between Jesus, the “Master,” and the leper
changed to Jesus, the “healer,” and “former leper”; a step up.

Through the thanks of the one leper, the cycle was completed,
the relationship between Jesus and that leper
went from Jesus, the physical “healer,” and “former leper”
To Jesus, the “savior” and “saved former leper”
Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you.”
That was a further step up in their relationship.

We must not take for granted all that God does for each of us each day.
Don’t forget to thank God every day.
Give thanks to God in verbal prayer.
Let all your actions also be prayers of thanks to God.
As you do all these things,
your relationship with God will spiral to new heights.

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