(Sirach 50:22-24; I Corinthians 1:3-9; Luke 17:11-19)
Thanksgiving is a uniquely human response to another’s service. Only humans can perceive a gratuitous act done on their behalf and acknowledge their indebtedness. This is the essence of thanksgiving: a verbal recognition that another has graciously and freely rendered one help is some way. Animals, particularly pets, may express subservience, but their responses are programmed to obtain favor.
Thanksgiving can be justly expected. One’s service may not only be unrecompensed but really impossible to reciprocate. It may not be a matter of scant resources but of the nature of the deed which no return offering can satisfy. For this reason Jesus expresses disappointment that nine of the ten cured of leprosy do not acknowledge God’s goodness.
We also need to give thanks. Of course, our American tradition has singled out today – the fourth Thursday of November – as especially appropriate to express gratitude to God. We call one another together not only for a meal but also for a communal prayer. We thank God for all the blessings we have enjoyed as Americans – a land rich in resources, friendly neighbors, and the genius to make and follow laws promoting both individual initiative and assistance to the needy. Also as part of the American tradition we should thank one another, especially those whose help has been both indispensable and gratuitous. We remember how the Pilgrims invited the Native Americans to their feast for helping them save their lives. Finally, today in the Eucharist we thank God for His Son Jesus Christ. He quite saves us from our follies and provides for us an eternal banquet of Thanksgiving.