May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Thanksgiving is self-explanatory. We give thanks for all that we have. The people in the readings today rejoiced in their blessings, so can we. We can count our blessings in many things, a home, security, healthcare, food, an income, paved roads, telephones, television, the internet, sports amateur and professional, and peace, the order in society, and generally good government. All are necessary for the life to which we have become accustomed. But that’s not all there is, there are music, literature, the theatre, including the shows on radio and television, there are paintings and sculpture, there are family, friends and neighbours, newspapers and magazines, our senses and all Creation, this last group adds depth and meaning to the first set of the basic elements we enjoy in life. We give thanks for those too.
So there is a material world, which is improved by what might be described as some of the higher things in life. What is a television if its screen is always blank ? What is a telephone that never rings ? What is a piano or a guitar that has nothing to play? A book that is just blank pages with no story to tell ? We need something that enlivens the basic elements for a more meaningful life. That is what the second group is all about. So far then we have taken care of the things that serve our bodies, the physical things, we have also taken care of the intellectual things, things like the beauty found in art, the tensions found in a good mystery story or in history, mathematics and all the other sciences, those are the things that feed our minds.
There is an even higher level than those and it is where the things that feed our Spirit reside, we call that level Faith. Faith can be fed by the written and the spoken or sung word, by the beauty of a picture or a sculpture, the story in a video, and the evidence of actions. Jesus deals with all three levels, the ordinary things of life, the things that enliven them and Faith, as He speaks to us in the Gospel today.
The day before today’s Gospel reading Jesus had fed five thousand plus people miraculously and the crowd harkened back to their history, comparing Jesus to Moses the great prophet who had led the people through the desert and had called down bread from heaven to feed them. This had been a sign to the people that Moses was a great prophet, so they asked Jesus for a sign, seemingly disparaging Jesus’ miracle feeding of the five thousand people and more. They were looking down their noses in their ignorance and downgraded Jesus’ miracle because He had only multiplied regular bread, not brought down the heavenly stuff that Moses had got from God ! So Jesus stepped it up a notch and one sign higher He declared Himself to be the Bread of Life, the true Bread from Heaven. He, that Bread, being spiritual bread was the real Bread of Life. Jesus is saying as music is higher than the instrument upon which it is played, that compared to the higher things in our present life, He was higher than anything they knew. And moreover He was eternally satisfying, because once you knew Him, you would never thirst after anything more satisfying again. Think about it, Jesus adds to the ordinary pleasures and makes them more meaningful, by changing our outlook on life.
Through Faith we might see that the hero or heroine in a story might through Jesus’ eye be seen as a tragic soul seeking understanding and the victim be understood as the triumphant moral giant. Having Faith gives us a new set of eyes to see the world through, a truer world, a world crying out for Salvation. In such a world no longer are things or creatures seen as resources for exploitation but now as gifts of God’s wonderful Creation worthy of honour and respect, and Thanksgiving.
We hear a lot about disruptors these days. Jesus is the consummate disruptor. Jesus says that in effect He has come to turn the world upside down (Luke 12:53). Give us new eyes to see things differently and truly; for this too we should give thanks. Give thanks for the struggle the Church is in because it is initiated by Jesus. Indeed all that we see as misfortunes should be seen also as opportunities for blessings for which we should give thanks. Misfortunes at their heart enable the Divine Purpose, God’s Plan. We only see the short and personal view of things that happen in life, we don’t have God’s long view. A misfortune may be what’s necessary to turn a life to its proper direction, just as much as a blessing may do also. A misfortune may save a tragedy, and equally a smile may repair a breaking heart. The failure to graduate may direct you into a career more suitable, that meets your and God’s aspirations not those of other’s. A painful separation may create a new beginning for that same relationship, one that may prompt the building of the life you were intended to lead, causing new opportunities where none seemed to exist.
We don’t know everything, we can never see the enormous scope of God’s Intent, but with Faith we can know that whatever happens it will be beneficial in the end, and therefore we should give thanks, always for both the good and the seeming bad. In both, if the only prayer you ever utter is “Thanks” that is enough. Bear that all in mind but do not forget to thank God for the obvious blessings we have too. We live in a beautiful world, we have myriad blessings showered upon us, for what more could we ask ? If we did we would be like those ignorant people who did not see that the greatest man ever to live was before their eyes and offering them and us the Bread of Life and Salvation for which we should give eternal thanks. Amen.