November 23, 2023 –
Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Thanksgiving Day

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Please note that there are two reflections below:  for the weekday in Ordinary Time, and for Thanksgiving Day.

Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 19:41-44

“If this day you only knew what makes for peace ….”

As the Church year draws to an end, Jesus in the weekday Gospel passages is drawing near to His own end in Jerusalem.  There is something a little anachronistic about this.  After all, it’s during Lent that we Christians liturgically observe Jesus drawing closer to His end, an end which culminates in the liturgies of the Sacred Triduum.

However, the end of the Church year—as it focuses on the end of human history itself—helps us realize that Jesus’ end is meant to be our end.  Further, the Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus will judge each of us at the end of time.  So today’s Gospel passage helps us orient our lives to our own end.

This passage is quite melancholy, not only because of Jesus’ tears, but also because of His words.  “If this day you only knew what makes for peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”  This sentence alone would offer many hours of meditation to one willing to ponder it.  But as Jesus continues to speak, He directs our attention more specifically towards Himself.  That this peace He speaks of is Jesus Himself becomes clear when He notes that the immanent destruction of Jerusalem is due to it not recognizing “the time of [its] visitation.”  Jesus visited God’s People that they might have eternal life, and they put the author of life to death outside Jerusalem.  Each of us shares in this rejection of Jesus by his own sins.

Thanksgiving Day

There are many options for the Scripture readings of Thanksgiving Day.

We learn early on in life that thanksgiving is one of the four chief forms of prayer to God, along with adoration, contrition and petition.  Such prayers of thanks might be verbal in nature, or they might be chiefly affective in nature.

Regardless, prayers of thanksgiving can also take another form.  Just as Jesus, during the three years of His public ministry, revealed God’s love through both words and works—that is, words and deeds—so a disciple can choose to give thanks to God through works—that is, through deeds—in addition to his verbal prayers of thanks.

Chief among the “works of God”—those works that Jesus carried out during His earthly life—is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, instituted at the Last Supper.  We might forget or underappreciate the fact that thanksgiving lies at the heart of the Mass.  We hear this in the narratives of the Last Supper in MatthewMark and Luke.  The priest speaks from these Gospel texts at the Consecration of Holy Mass:  speaking to God the Father, the priest first states that Jesus “took bread, and giving you thanks”, consecrated the bread to be His sacred Body.  “In a similar way, when supper was ended, [Jesus] took the chalice, and giving you thanks”, consecrated the wine to be His sacred Blood.  Giving thanks to God the Father lies at the heart of the consecration of Holy Mass.

This truth of our faith is not something simply to be appreciated.  We are not meant to be spectators at Holy Mass.  Jesus means for us to be active participants in the offering of Holy Mass.  Lay persons are not, of course, called by God to share in the offering of Mass as an ordained priest does.  Nonetheless, lay persons are called by God to share in the offering of Holy Mass by offering up their own selves:  their own body and blood, soul and humanity, for God to do with their lives as He wills, for the growth of His Kingdom and His glory.

What the ordained priest and laypersons share in common, though, in participating in Holy Mass is a certain form of thanksgiving:  a certain way in which we’re obligated to give thanks to God.  Unlike Jesus, you and I are poor sinners.  Jesus offered Himself, at the Last Supper and on Calvary, for us sinners, as the innocent Lamb to be slain.  You and I poor sinners, through our participation at Holy Mass, give thanks to God for this holy sacrifice:  this holy exchange that God the Father made, giving up His only-begotten Son, so that we could become His adopted children.  You and I have many things for which to give thanks to God:  the gift of human life, the gift of liberty, the gift of family, and many others.  But above all, we need to give thanks to God, especially through our sharing in Holy Mass, for the gift of redemption and sanctification that is our through our savior, Jesus Christ.