Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving with the Holy Spirit and Bishop Loverde

by Mark Rothe, Master Catechist

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, our nation's oldest holiday, but the parish of Blessed Sacrament got an early start with the Turkey Dinner we held last Saturday evening.

On Thursday (and on Friday too for many people), we will gather with family and friends for a feast of succulent turkey, gravy, potatoes, stuffing, corn and green beans, cranberry sauce, pies and cookies, delicious wine, and more. Before eating, many will "say grace" and go around saying what they are thankful for.

But even though many gathered around the table do have this tradition of saying what they are thankful for, we do not call this Thankfulness Day, but Thanksgiving Day. Even for nonbelievers, this day is Thanksgiving Day. And to give thanks, rather than being merely thankful, means giving that thanks to someone.

Who is that someone to whom we give thanks on this holiday? Sure, some of the thanks will go to family and friends, but primarily our "thank you" is given to God. (Indeed, the word "holiday," even though used in a civic setting, is derived from "holy day.") "Thank you" not only for the food around the table, but for all of the blessings of our lives, even if we do not recognize them to be blessings.

The word for "thanksgiving" in Greek is, as you may already know, "eucharistia." This is the name we give to the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom we receive at the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

Bishop Paul Loverde came to our parish of Blessed Sacrament on Monday evening, November 19, for a Eucharistic celebration to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation upon many members of our parish community. Noting his own nervousness that the bishop might call on him when he was confirmed in 1950 at the age of ten, Bishop Loverde sought to reassure the confirmandi that one of the graces received from the Holy Spirit in Confirmation was that of strength and fortitude to not be afraid to give witness to the Lord, especially out there in the world, "where it really counts." In Confirmation, the Holy Spirit would come to dwell within the recipient; He would be a helper, a guide, and thereby transform the recipient into a clearer image of Jesus Christ to others and bind him or her more closely to the Church and her mission to be a witness of Jesus to others in everything we say and think and do.

Being a witness for the Lord in this world will not be easy for the newly-confirmed, Bishop Loverde said, but out there in the world is where this witness really counts, that is, that is where it is so necessary. From the many attacks on the sanctity of life to the scourge of drugs, alcohol, and pornography, to a culture of violence and injustice, and the many other failings or outright evils of humanity, the world is a cold and dark place, and it needs the Light of Christ that can shine through us by our witness of Him. The Holy Spirit is stronger than all the vices and evils of the world and with Him in our hearts, we can be heralds of hope to others. To do that, Bishop Loverde said, all one needs do is open his heart to receive the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and then to allow Him to remain there, dwelling within you.

These graces received in Confirmation are crucial to being an effective witness, including the grace of strength to resist peer pressure to engage in any number of wrongful things that the world tempts us to do and, by having this strength to say "no" to these things, and "yes" to God instead, we provide a witness and example that encourages others to avoid the wrong and do the good, we can be Good News to them.

In Confirmation, we join in the mission of the Church to share the Lord with others, and we should thank the Lord for being asked to serve Him in this way, to help Him in His work of redemption. The word "thanksgiving" is "eucharistia" in Greek. The Lord is our Eucharist, our Grace, and as Confirmed Catholics, we should seek to invite others to our feast with Him and in Him.

The turkey and wine we will eat and drink on Thanksgiving Day will be deliciously good, but they are pale imitations of the real food, the real drink that the Lord invites us to receive to have life in abundance. More than merely saying what we are thankful for, we need to give that thanks to Him, and beyond saying grace, we need to open our hearts to the grace of the Holy Spirit, to dwell within us and be a light of the Lord to others. More than merely inviting others to share turkey on Thanksgiving, we need to invite others to share in our Lord, the fullness of life, in the Eucharist. In love, with the graces of the Holy Spirit we received in Confirmation, we need to invite them to join us at the real Thanksgiving meal, not merely once a year, but to join in the joyous feast everyday of our lives.

See also, The First Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of President Washington (1789)

No comments: