Mass of Thanksgiving: A, B, C
Is 63:7-9; Col 3:12-17; Lk 1:39-55
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’ Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong. It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2009 and republished in Viet Nam 2012. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand.
However, if readers like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar, it would be greatly appreciated by the author whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
The Americans set aside Thursday of the fourth week of November as a day of Thanksgiving and rest. The special dish of Thanksgiving Day is turkey. Some gastronomic Vietnamese Americans modify and add spices like cutting turkey liver and gizzard, vermicelli, celery, cashew nut, mushroom and bread into small pieces, mixed with salt and pepper, then put inside the turkey, wrapped in oven paper. Then bake in the oven with 375°F in three hours. Fewer hours are for smaller turkeys. Thus, the meat would be tender, smell and taste good. When you have tried it, you will want more and more.
American Thanksgiving is not a feast day in the Church. However, Catholics in America should bring religious meaning and spiritual sense to the celebration. In those countries without Thanksgiving Day set aside, a family and/or extended family may choose a certain day of the year as a day of thanksgiving to gather together to give thanks to the Almighty and to strengthen the family bond.
To celebrate Thanksgiving is the occasion to remind the faithful of favors and gifts: material, mental and spiritual, received from God. People tend to take those things they have received for granted. However, if they had to struggle to make ends meet, they would appreciate those favors they had received. To thank is to express a feeling of need, wishing to depend on God, and to remember those who have done us favors. That is the feeling of those who drink water and remember its source  or those who eat the fruits without forgetting tree planters . That is the way to say that we need others. To remember others is to remember God. God is the invisible and we do not know how to express our thanks. Therefore, we need to learn the way of expressing our thanks to other human beings as to express our thanks to God.
On this Thanksgiving Day, we remember the words of the prophet Isaiah who reminds people of giving thanks to God for all the gifts and blessings he has done for them (Is 63:7). Saint Paul advises the Colossians to treat one another with a spirit of gratitude towards one another: Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you (Col 3:13).
As for Mary, she gave thanks to God for he had done wondrous things in her by going to the hill country to serve her pregnant cousin Elizabeth in her old age (Lk 1:39-44). When on earth, Jesus often taught his apostles to be thankful. When at dining table, Jesus took bread, gave thanks (Mt 15:36; Mk 8:6; Jn 6:11). When he instituted the Eucharist, he also took bread, giving thanks (Lk 22:19), then he took the cup, giving thanks (Mt 26:27; Mk 14:23).
Each one of us has many reasons to be thankful. Some of the gifts we must be thankful for are the gift of life, that is the gift of being born into this world as man or woman, the gift of faith we received at baptism, the gift of family, home, job, health, the food we eat and the liquid we drink, the beautiful country we live in.
Each one of us has also received different blessings and gifts such as verbal ability, skill in poetry, talent in singing, literature, arts, science, music, and sports. Talents and blessings given must be developed and used to serve humankind and glorify God. How about bad things that happened to us? Should we thank God or blame him for those? Often people complain against God and blame him for those misfortunes and diseases they endure or those things they do not have, yet others do. That is why their eyes are covered, unable to see the bright side of life or the lucky things they have received. As a result, people adopt negative attitudes such as jealousy, dissatisfaction, resentment even against God as: Creator why do you annoy me  or Creator why are you so mean and cruel .
Only when we live in a spirit of gratitude, can we see those good things God has given to us. If we look around us, we can see so many people: hungry, miserable, suffering in body and mind. Is it that we are luckier than many people are?
For practical application, each day of our life, we should give thanks to God in words and actions. Gratitude must be the frame of mind and spirit we should have daily, hourly and minute by minute. For instance, we give thanks to God for a beautiful day, with warm sun light under the blue sky, dotted with white clouds, and gentle breeze and melodious sounds of birds singing. We give thanks to God for a good sound sleep, relaxing the mind. We give thanks to God for a good meal. Many people dare not give thanks to God for a good meal lest they would break a virtue of self-denial and sacrifice.
Traveling to the United States of America, visitors often hear words of thanks and sorry on their lips. A word of praise you say to anyone for anything, you would hear another word of thanks from him or her. If they touch somebody unintentionally, you would hear them say sorry’. Perhaps our acts of thanks to one another should remind us of thanksgiving to God. When Jesus healed the ten lepers, only one of them, a foreigner, returned to give thanks to him. Jesus asked: Where are the other nine (Lk 17:17). Our thanks might be lip service if it does not come from the heart or not followed by action.
On a PanAm flight to the Vatican for the Second Vatican Council in October, 1962, Archbishop Fulton J Sheen, an eloquent preacher on TV saw a beautiful flight attendant on the flight, he whispered to her ear whether she had done anything to thank God for her beauty? Later on, she went to ask Archbishop Sheen what she would have to do to give thanks to God, while the bishop was reading a newspaper report that Archbishop Cassaigne of Saigon had resigned so that he could go and serve lepers at Diling of Vietnam. Caught by surprise without preparation for an answer, Archbishop Sheen suggested that she should go to Vietnam to help Archbishop Cassaigne serve lepers for a certain period. Feeling saddened by the suggestion, she left without saying good-bye to Archbishop Sheen. Then in 1963, it was reported in the Vietnamese newspaper that a flight attendant, young and beautiful, from PANAM volunteered to serve the lepers at Dilinh for six months. Is it a true report that she entered a convent after she had returned from Vietnam?
The mass is called the Eucharist in Greek. The Eucharist in Greek means to give thanks. Thus to offer the mass or the Eucharist means to give thanks. When the faithful in the early church attended the Eucharist, they had in mind a spirit of thanksgiving. For us catholic Christians, to come to church to attend mass is the best way to give thanks to God. Thus to give thanks to God without going to church to attend mass means we miss something important, short of meaning for the acts of thanks.
A prayer for knowing how to live in a spirit of thanksgiving:
Oh Most Holy Trinitarian God,
our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.
We thank you for all the blessings you have given us.
With faith in you, we believe that everything we have,
comes from you.
Teach us to complain less and less and realize
that living a spirit of thanksgiving every day, hour and minute
must be our meditation. Amen.
- 1. Vietnamese proverb
- 2. Ibid
3. In ‘Cung Oan Ngam Khuc’
4. In ‘Thuy Kieu’ (English translation by Bùi Phụng in Vietnamese English Dictionary).