HOMILY WEEK 28 01 -Year II
Confident Prayer and Grateful Praise
Optional Mass – Thanksgiving Day 2020
(Col 3:12-17; Ps 113; Mt 7:7-12)
“If the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘thank you’, that would suffice.”
That statement, written by Meister Eckhart, a 14th century mystic, and the readings provided for this Thanksgiving Day, invite us to lead lives of confident prayer and grateful praise.
In Article 3 of the General Catechism of the Catholic Church, five kinds of prayers are outlined: Blessing and adoration, Petition, Intercession, Thanksgiving and Praise. The readings today focus our attention on three – petition, gratitude and praise.
Jesus in the gospel is obviously teaching his disciples the prayer of petition. We are to ask, to petition, and our prayer will be answered; we are to search the scriptures and there we will find out how to pray and what to pray for, and finally, we are to knock on the door of the heart of our God through prayer, and that door will be opened.
There is a sense here that we should pray with trust and confidence that our prayer will be answered. How then can we explain what happens when our prayers do not seem to be answered?
The answer to that, I believe, is contained in Jesus’ suggestion to search the scriptures, and in his assurance that if human parents will give good things to their children, how much more so will our heavenly Father do the same. That is clearer in the gospel of Luke, who specifies the Father will give the Holy Spirit, the very best of good things, to those who ask for it.
We have to learn, then, to pray for what God wants to give us all along, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and that prayer will always be answered; we will always receive. In the first reading, so in the scriptures, St. Paul suggests praying for compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, love and peace. During my morning prayer of the Anawim, I add praying for faith, hope, joy, gentleness, patience, purity, humility, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, compassion, spiritual freedom, self-confidence and open-mindedness. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen used to confidently pray every morning for many of these gifts, and joke it would be God’s fault if they were not given to him!
In the reading to the Colossians, St. Paul focuses our attention on gratitude. He reminds us of our exalted identity – we are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, and that is certainly a reason to be thankful. St. Paul encourages us to do whatever we do in the name of the Lord Jesus, and to always give thanks to God the Father through him. That leads me to tweak my favourite one-sentence summary of Catholic theology to read: “We are all gratefully coming back to the Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the Holy Spirit, with Mary our Mother.”
Psalm 113 then focuses our attention on the prayer of praise, picking up a cue from St. Paul who advises us to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God with gratitude in our hearts. Praise rings out over and over again in this psalm: we are to praise the Lord as servants of the Lord, to bless the name of the Lord, from the rising of the sun to its setting. True to the teaching of the Catholic Catechism, we are to bless and praise the name of the Lord from this time on and forevermore. We can add to that the truism that a grateful person is a joyful person – these two gifts of the Holy Spirit just naturally go together.
I remember picking up a hitch-hiker on a cold November evening who admitted he had just picked up some hard drugs in the city and was on his way to Vancouver’s East-side to basically end his life. That began a conversation about life, healing, treatment and hope that ended with me driving him to his sister’s place instead, and giving him my contact information. Some years later, I received a late-night phone call from him to thank me for that ride and conversation. He shared with me that he went for treatment instead of going to Vancouver, and was now the addictions worker in his community. His gratitude and story moved me deeply.
The word “Eucharist” is a transliteration of the Greek word eucharistia, which is itself a translation of the Hebrew word berekah. All three words have the meaning of thanksgiving, or praise for the wonderful works of God. May our celebration this Thanksgiving Day empower us to lead lives of confident prayer and grateful, joyful praise.