December 5, 2008


Gratitude makes wholeness and healing possible

In one of his many articles on the Eucharist as communion, Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, quotes the Greek philosopher Plato, who writes about the reciprocal communion between gods and men.

According to Plato, “communion with the gods also brings about fellowship among men.” He notes that this communion is the ultimate intention and the most profound content of all sacrifices, of all worship as such.

In this connection, Plato coins a marvelous phrase that we might refer to as a presentiment of the eucharistic mystery when he says that “worship is entirely concerned with the wholeness and the healing of love.”

Worship heals the brokenness and vulnerability of love, and makes it whole again.

When we participate in the Eucharist, we become one with the Lord and with his body, the Church. We bring to the table our wounds and our incompleteness, and we allow the sacrifice of Jesus, and our communion with him, to make us whole again.

In the Eucharist, we offer to God our praise and thanksgiving for all that he has given us, and we open ourselves to the power of his love, which is our only true source of healing and of hope.

Gratitude has an important part to play in Christian worship. When we acknowledge all of the ways that we have been blessed by God, and give him thanks, we forget about the hurts we suffer and the wrongs that have been done to us.

We focus not on our weakness, but on God’s strength—not on our loneliness, but on the union with God and with one another that have been made possible in and through Christ.

The Greek word for “thanksgiving” has the same root as Eucharist. And we Christians are convinced there is no greater way to give thanks to God than to share in the body and blood of his son in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

This is the worship that heals our love—which has been wounded by sins of lust, bitterness and fear. This is the worship that makes us whole again after we have been divided by politics, ideology and petty jealousy.

When we are focused on our blessings, and express our gratitude to God, how can we feel sorry for ourselves? And when we acknowledge all the gifts we have received from a good and gracious God, how can we be envious (or covetous) of our neighbor’s gifts?

Pope Benedict writes that the mystery which has been revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the inner life of God himself. As a result of the Incarnation, and the Paschal Mystery, we now know that “God is in himself a dialogue of eternal love.” God is love, the pope reminds us, and our love, wounded and incomplete without God, is healed in and through the eucharistic sacrifice.

What must we do to be healed, to become holy? We must thank God for his goodness to us. We must open ourselves to the power of his love and let his healing power (his grace) enter into our minds and hearts. We must give ourselves to him wholly and completely so that he can restore us to our true selves.

This is the time of year when we remember our blessings and give thanks to God for all his gifts. As we begin December and move into Advent, may it also be a time of healing and wholeness—for each of us, for our nation and for the Church.

May our observance of Thanksgiving this year extend beyond one day and become a way of life, an expression of stewardship, for all God’s people.

May our thankfulness lead us to the Eucharist, and may our worship bring us wholeness and the healing of love.

—Daniel Conway

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