I’ve recently been giving thought to celebrating Thanksgiving. Even looking at the word, it encourages some kind of action: Give thanks. I imagine it could be an assortment of rituals: writing down the people in my life that have made a difference; taking a long walk out in nature and offering thanks to God for whatever comes to mind; putting a coffee can (remember those?) out to collect a Thanksgiving sacrifice for those in need in my city; praying a rosary using the beads to recall people, places, things that I’m grateful for. Oh, the opportunities are endless!
But our word, “Eucharist” means to “give thanks.” We give thanks to God in a shared way, in a meal of word and sacrament, as Church, for all of our many gifts of the natural world, our family, friends, friars, our particular moment in the present, our communion with sisters and brothers throughout the world, as well as the Communion of Saints, and mostly our communion with Christ, who, on the night before He died, took bread and gave thanks. We are connected to this Thanksgiving sacrifice that has changed each one of us, drawing us to be transformed into the Body of Christ.
I don’t normally connect the word Eucharist and Thanksgiving. I can become numb to it, routinized into complacency. But this special fall feast, this day of eating, a day to celebrate harvest, can call to mind our life in Christ. It is the duty to include all of our brothers and sisters into the feast of life unending, when the joy will be stronger than the roar of a football game. This Beloved Community, as Dr. King spoke of it, seems to be what the kingdom of God is all about. We can taste it on this special day of Thanksgiving.
Mark Soehner, OFM