Every year it is the same.
January is welcomed with a lot of optimism for the year ahead. I think about all the plans and events that await me and I wonder about what will come during the year then I blink my eyes and Thanksgiving is just around the corner.
Whether I like it or not, 2016 is winding down and before I know it I will be ringing in 2017. It is at this time of year I like to look back at the year and offer thanks for all that has happened. I like to think back on the highs and lows at work, the fun things that I got to do, time with family and friends that I was blessed to share, and some of my closest moments to God.
Yet, even while I am looking back at the year so far, I am excited about the celebrations to come. There will be time with family and friends, national holidays, and some pretty important Church feasts and solemnities to celebrate.
So many things to be thankful for, and in the midst of them all is a ceremony steeped in gratitude that we participate in weekly and for some, daily. The word Eucharist actually means thanksgiving. Paragraph 1328 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says this: “It is called Eucharist, because it is an action of thanksgiving to God.”
It is no accident that the source and summit of our faith happens when we are gathered around a table at Church. Jesus gave us the Eucharist while at a ritual supper that was a meal of thanksgiving recalling how God rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
Jesus knew from his own human experience that great celebrations occur at the table. His first miracle happened at a wedding where guests gathered at table. He had many meals with his disciples and his earthly ministry came to completion at the Passover table and the Altar of the Cross.
The same is true for us, whether it is the Thanksgiving table, or a tailgate serving as a table before the big game, or at a high chair on a first birthday with a baby’s face smeared with cake, or a quiet romantic candlelit table for two. We celebrate and give thanks gathered at table.
The penultimate table is the altar of sacrifice, healing, and thanksgiving that we congregate around at each Mass. This Eucharistic celebration is at once an eternal re-presentation of the Paschal Mystery and a reminder that this is just the first act of a mystical story and that we still await the advent of act two, when Jesus comes again in glory.
The Church year begins five weeks before the secular calendar turns and this is fitting because December is a month filled with anticipation. Everything from school kids chomping at the bit for the end of the semester, to the slow build up of excitement for Christmas Day, to the big sigh that comes when the festivities wind down and a quiet moment with a child, friend, or loved one can be leisurely enjoyed.
Yes, there is so much to be thankful for and so much more to come. We are a Eucharistic people in a perpetual Advent. Everything that we have to be thankful for or to look forward to comes through the Father’s love for us, which is perfectly framed by Pope Francis in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. All year he has reminded us that the Father’s love is most perfectly conveyed in the bountiful expressions of divine mercy.
So, while we are being thankful, let us not forget to thank God for his unfailing mercy, his unrelenting love, and his promise to be with us until the end of the world, and beyond.
Every year it is the same. January is welcomed with a lot of optimism for the year ahead. I think about all the plans and events that await me and I wonder about what will come during the year.