Loading in 2 Seconds...
Loading in 2 Seconds...
The Son Lives to Give Thanks to the Father General audience of July 29, 1987
Jesus' prayer as the Son who had "gone forth from the Father" expresses in a special way the fact that he "goes to the Father" (cf. Jn 16:28). "He goes," and he leads to the Father all those whom the Father "had given him" (cf. Jn 17).
Besides, he leaves to all the enduring legacy of his filial prayer: "When you pray, say 'Our Father'" (Mt 6:9; cf. Lk 11:2). As is evident from this formula taught by Jesus, his prayer to the Father is characterized by some fundamental notes. It is a prayer • full of praise, • full of unlimited abandonment to the Father's will, • and as regards us, full of supplication and of petition for pardon. In this context the prayer of thanksgiving is particularly included.
Jesus said, "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes" (Mt 11:25). In saying "I thank you," Jesus wished to express gratitude for the gift of God's revelation, since "no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Mt 11:27).
The priestly prayer also, while having the character of a great petition which the Son addressed to the Father at the end of his earthly mission, is at the same time imbued with a profound sense of thanksgiving. It can even be said that thanksgiving constitutes the essential element not only of Christ's prayer, but also of his essential intimacy with the Father.
At the center of all that Jesus does and says, there is the awareness of the gift. Everything is the gift of God, creator and Father; and an adequate response to the gift is gratitude and thanksgiving.
One must pay attention to the Gospel passages, especially those of St. John, where this thanksgiving is clearly underlined. Such is the prayer on the occasion of the resurrection of Lazarus: "Father, I thank you that you have heard me" (Jn 11:41).
At the multiplication of the loaves, "Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish" (Jn 6:11).
Finally, at the institution of the Eucharist, before pronouncing the words of institution over the bread and wine, Jesus "gave thanks" (Lk 22:17; cf. also Mk 14:23; Mt 26:27). This expression is used over the chalice of wine, while over the bread the text speaks of a blessing.
However, according to the Old Testament, "to bless God" also means to give thanks, besides meaning "to praise God," "to thank the Lord."
Thanksgiving in the Old Testament The prayer of thanksgiving continues the biblical tradition which is expressed especially in the psalms. "It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praise to your name, Most High.... For you make me glad, O Lord, by your deeds; at the works of your hands I rejoice" (Ps 92:2, 5).
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his kindness endures forever! Thus let the redeemed of the Lord say.... Let them give thanks to the Lord for his kindness and his wondrous deeds to the children of men. Let them make thank offerings" (Ps 107: 1, 2, 21-22).
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.... I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and have been my savior.... You are my God, and I give thanks to you; O my God, I extol you" (Ps 118:1, 21, 28).
"How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?.... To you I will offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord" (Ps 116:12, 17).
"I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. My soul also you knew full well" (Ps 139:14). "I will extol you, O my God and king, and I will bless your name forever and ever" (Ps 145:1).
In the Book of Sirach we read: "Bless the Lord for all he has done! Proclaim the greatness of his name, loudly sing his praises.... Sing out with joy as you proclaim: ‘ The works of God are all good; in its own time every need is supplied'.... No cause then to say, 'What is the purpose of this?' Everything is chosen to satisfy a need" (Sir 39:14-16, 21). Sirach's exhortation "to bless the Lord" has a didactic tone.
Jesus accepted this legacy so significant for the Old Testament, and in the theme of blessing-confession-praise he made the dimension of thanksgiving explicit.
It may therefore be said that the culmination of this biblical tradition is to be found in the Last Supper, when Christ instituted the sacrament of his body and blood on the day before offering this body and blood in the sacrifice of the cross.
As St. Paul wrote: "The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me'" (1 Cor 11:23-24).
Likewise the Synoptics, speak of the thanksgiving over the chalice: "Then he took a cup; and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many'" (Mk 14:23-24; cf. Mt 26:27: Lk 22:17).
The Eucharist The original Greek of the expression "gave thanks" is eucaristesas (from eucaristein) —from which comes "Eucharist." Thus the sacrifice of the body and blood instituted as the most blessed sacrament of the Church fulfilled and at the same time superseded those sacrifices of blessing and praise spoken of in the psalms.
The Christian communities from the earliest times joined the celebration of the Eucharist to thanksgiving, as is shown by a text of the Didache (composed between the end of the first century and the beginning of the second, probably in Syria, perhaps even in Antioch).
"We thank you, our Father, for the holy life of David your servant, which you have made known to us through Jesus Christ your servant. We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you have made known to us through Jesus Christ your servant. We thank you, our Father, for your holy name, which you have made to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge, the faith and immortality which you have made known to us through Jesus Christ your servant" (Didache 9:2-3; 10:2).
The Church's hymn of thanksgiving which accompanies the Eucharist arises from her inmost heart, and indeed from the very heart of the Son, who lives to give thanks. It can rightly be said that her prayer, and indeed her whole earthly existence, became a revelation of this fundamental truth stated in the Letter of James: "Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (Jas 1:17).
By living to give thanks, Christ, the Son of Man, the new Adam, radically vanquished sin which was conceived in the heart of the first Adam, under the influence of the "father of lies“ (cf. Gen 3).
The giving of thanks restores to man the awareness of the gift bestowed by God from the beginning, and at the same time expresses the readiness to reciprocate the gift —to give with all one's heart to God oneself and everything else. It is as it were a restitution, because everything has in him its beginning and source.
"Let us give thanks to the Lord our God." This is the invitation which the Church places at the center of the Eucharistic liturgy. This exhortation strongly echoes the thanksgiving by which the Son of God lived on earth. The voice of the people of God responds in unison with a humble and grand testimony: Dignum et iustum est; "it is right to give him thanks and praise."