Conceivably, we could admire, and even praise God without being grateful. But once we realize that everything God made, he made for us, our hearts acclaim, “It is right to give you thanks and praise.”
When we also know through the Christian revelation that God took flesh in Jesus Christ, lived on earth and died for us, then thanksgiving should invade our life.
Not to give God thanks and praise should be inconceivable to us.
We gather on Sundays to do this as a community. Catholics give thanks by celebrating “Eucharist,” which in Greek means “thankfulness” (from eu- well + charis, favor; or eucharizesthai, to show favor to). The meaning of “celebration” is “to single out for grateful remembrance.”
At Mass we “single out for grateful remembrance” the mystery of Christ’s dying and rising, through which we “became Christ.” We received this new and divine identity by being incorporated into Christ’s body on the cross in Baptism, dying and rising in him, and offering ourselves as a “living sacrifice” to continue in our bodies his life and mission on earth.
At every Mass we gratefully offer ourselves anew – “through him, with him, and in him” – our “flesh for the life of the world” (see John 6:51; Romans 12:1).
While we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh (2Corinthians 4:11).
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).
We are “a new creation” (2Corinthians 5:17). We thank God every Sunday – and need to thank him every day, several times a day – for the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the favor of sharing in his own divine life, that has let us know the “love of the Father” as only those who are his true “sons and daughters in the Son” can know it. It is because of our common experience of sharing in his divine life that we have “communion in the Holy Spirit.” Our whole existence has been raised to a higher plane. We are called, we have been taught, and we have been enabled to live on the level of God.
That is something to be grateful for.
But we won’t be, unless we keep ourselves aware of it by giving thanks.
How can we keep ourselves aware? What will remind us to keep thanking God?
Mass will – if we listen to the words. We have quoted the words of the Greeting. These are followed by the Kyrie: “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.” It should fill our hearts with thanksgiving to know we can ask God for “mercy” with absolute confidence that he will give it. We have his own word on that:
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation (Luke 1:50).
God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our sins, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:4).
He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).
The Gloria specifies what we have to be thankful for in the Good News. It is first of all just for what we know God is: “We give you thanks for your great glory.” How often do we thank God just for being the kind of God he is? (Granted, it is impossible that there could be another kind).
We thank God for Jesus who offered himself as the “Lamb of God” to “take away the sins of the world.”
What if he hadn’t? What if our sins could only be forgiven, but not “taken away”? We would remain unchanged in our guilt. Instead, by dying with Christ and in Christ, we are a “new creation.” As Lamb of God, Jesus “gave himself up” for us, “in order to make us holy by cleansing us… so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind – yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.”
That is something to thank God for.
We thank God that Jesus is “seated at the right hand of the Father.” He will “receive our prayer.” He will “have mercy on us.”
The Gloria leads us in saying thanks.
“We give you thanks for your great glory.” We should make a conscious effort to do it every day.
A suggestion: In the morning, recite the Benedictus: Luke 1:68-79. In the evening, recite the Magnificat: Luke 1:46-55).