Week 33, Thanksgiving Day (USA). Word of THE WORD

Sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts
always thanking God the Father for all things
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Ephesians 5:19-20)

Father all-powerful,
Your gifts of love are countless
and Your goodness infinite;
as we come before You on Thanksgiving Day
with gratitude for Your kindness,
open our hearts to have concern
for every man, woman, and child,
so that we may share Your gifts in loving service.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM (click for full Psalm)
The Lamb has made us a kingdom of priests to serve our God. (Revelation5:10).

GOSPEL EXCERPT (click for all readings)
As Jesus drew near Jerusalem,
he saw the city and wept (ἔκλαυσεν, eklausen) over it, saying,
“If this day you only knew (ἔγνως, egnos) what makes for peace -
but now it is hidden from your eyes.
For the days are coming upon you
when your enemies will raise a palisade against you;
they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.
They will smash you to the ground and your children within you,
and they will not leave one stone upon another within you
because you did not recognize (ἔγνως, egnos) the time of your visitation (ἐπισκοπῆς, episkopes).”

Many parishes in the United States, no doubt, will use the proper Mass of Thanksgiving Day as presented in the Roman Missal on this day that the universal Church commemorates the life of the saintly Roman woman-martyr, Cecilia. (Perhaps the Collect of Saint Cecilia could be used to conclude the General Intercessions.) The Mass of Thanksgiving Day presents a number of choices from God’s Word with the favorite Gospel episode falling most of the time to the “Cleansing of the Ten Lepers” in Luke 17. The Ordo for the United States permits another option for today: the sequential Readings from Revelation and Luke 19:41-44. While a strictly “thanksgiving” theme may not be apparent instantly in Luke 19, there is an aspect of the event that provides a foundation ‘to give thanks’ in an authentic manner.

The major section of the Lucan Gospel is Jesus’ journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. The elements of travel, especially trips involving obstacles that are overcome by Divine Providence and a resilient spirit on the part of genuine disciples, shape many of the insights Saint Luke records. In recording the events of 41-44, Luke is unique among the Evangelists in capturing the weeping Jesus as Jerusalem comes into His view. Jesus sheds not a plastic tear nor a tear of insincerity. κλαίω (klaio), the Greek verb translated here as wept, is connected more properly to the Old Testament experience of lament, particularly the Psalms of Lament and the Book of Lamentations. Lament (and its opposite: praise) are initial, spontaneous expressions of the whole person to a given person, place, object or event. First-responders and medical professionals, especially those working in an Emergency Room, are familiar with lament. Sometimes the sight of a tragedy or devastating news given to another person sparks a lament. People present may ‘hear’ sounds from the person that are unintelligible yet speak of the overwhelming grief that has befallen one. A person may not even know what is coming out of her or his mouth. In other situations, a person may faint on receiving news that a loved one has died. The fainting is not willed; a person does not choose to faint – it happens as an autonomic response to tragedy ‘sensed’ by the whole person.
This is ‘where’ Jesus is. The mere glimpse of Jerusalem in the offing sparks a deep, autonomic response of grief. Why? The people of Jerusalem made a choice ‘not to get’ Jesus and His message of Kingdom living or as the Sacred Text states, “you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” “To recognize” (ἔγνως, [egnos] from γινώσκω [ginosko]) is both a rich and important verb in Greek. There are a number of verbs that are often translated “to know” in English. Briefly, the distinction among γινώσκω (ginosko) and many other “to know” verbs consists in the ‘object’ of knowledge. When γινώσκω is used in the Sacred Scriptures, it often speaks of people ‘getting it.’ γινώσκω is being hit with the proverbial ‘ton of bricks.’ γινώσκω expresses those wow moments of life when the ‘lights go on.’ γινώσκω is not about book knowledge or facts; it has to do more with ‘making connections that establish life, or deepen an existing experience of life.’ γινώσκω is a knowing that impacts one to the core of her or his being and gives one a confidence that is unshaken as the knowing is grounded in being connected, being in relationship with and to another. No wonder, as His Public Ministry winds to a close, Jesus is filled with lament at the choice so many made to block Him from their experience of life.
I mentioned at the beginning that there were aspect of this event that provide a basis or a foundation for authentic thanksgiving. Authentic thanksgiving involves ‘knowing’ on a deep level and certainly a level that involves one’s relationships with the Divine Persons and the whole array of human persons that have become part of life. Authentic thanksgiving is not plastic nor insincere superficiality: it is about taking a good, hard look at the connections that are Divine and human in life and to permit that ‘recognition’ to erupt – not in lament – but in praise! The ‘table’ – so important and sacred a meeting place for Jesus and many people in Luke, – is sacred today (and everyday!) in our homes because it is the place where we first learned the lessons of being authentically human and the vitality of our connection to others. Those lesson and those experience around the home-table prepare us for another meal where we learn the lesson of sacrificial living: the Table of the Lord – the Altar of Sacrifice that has room for all so that we may all ‘get it’ – knowing and connecting with the Person Jesus Who in love, has offered salvation to all. In ‘getting that,’ how can one not sing, shout, proclaim: “Thank you, Lord Jesus!”