St. Vincent de Paul 6:30 pm Mass
November 26, 2013
Good evening. Fr. Danny has asked that I give a reflection this evening. I thank you in advance for your patience in hearing this short reflection.
I wanted to take this moment, this occasion to speak to y’all about prayer, and in particular praying in thanksgiving after having received communion. Indeed, most if not all have just received the body and blood, soul and divinity of our dearly beloved Lord Jesus Christ. And if the celebration of the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our faith, as so beautifully articulated in the Catechism, then this moment after its reception is the arrival point. This moment is objectively the closest encounter we can have in this life with our Lord. We touch. We eat. We receive His very body and blood. We have climbed the mountain. We have partaken of the font. Here and now in the silence of your inner most self the LORD dwells. I find it hard now to even speak and disrupt this moment of intimacy with our LORD.
Yet what are we to do? What are we to say in this moment? How are we to respond to such a gift given to us in such a humble manner? The Church has long suggested the holy and venerable practice of saying prayers of thanksgiving after mass. Many saints have taken up this practice throughout the centuries, staying after mass if even for just a little while so as to abide with Him, so as to remain in Him. They stayed behind in order that they might give thanks to God the Father for having received the gift of love, the gift of Jesus His Son, the gift of God Himself.
Scripturally, we find see Jesus giving high praise to those who return to Him in thanksgiving. When He cured 10 lepers and only one returned in humble gratitude, He asked, “were there not 10 healed; where are the other 9?” Then turning to the one who returned He said, “go, your faith has saved you” (Cf. Lk 17:11-19). Jesus desires for us to remain with Him, if even for just a few moments. He desires us to allow Him in the most intimate of moments a chance to speak to our hearts, and for us to do the same. But what do we say? How do we give thanks?
When we know not how to pray, we Catholics turn to those good old memorized or written out prayers. These can be really helpful in teaching us how to pray. Much like learning math, before we can sit down and solve problems with algebra and beyond, we must first memorize multiplication tables, and division charts. Indeed, most of elementary math is just that, memorizing. And how such memorization comes in handy when trying to concentrate on much bigger and complex problems? Prayer is much the same way. After memorizing and practicing the basics, we are able to pray in a deeper way from our hearts. Fortunately, there are many such prayers of thanksgiving after mass. Some of the more famous are written by St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Ambrose, and St. Bonaventure, but there are many others. Even praying a simple “Our Father,” “Hail Mary,” and “Glory be” can go a long way in allowing us to enter into this act of thanksgiving.
If we do not have these readily available for whatever reason, we can also just speak to the Lord expressing our simple yet sincere gratitude for this gift of Himself in the Eucharist. In realms of this kind of more fluid prayer, I would suggest the logic that many of our mothers instilled in us when we wrote thank you letters growing up. Say thank you, but be specific. What have you received and why are you grateful? Then, as you would in the letter, tell God how you enjoy the gift, what you plan on using it for, and how you look forward to using it. In other words, you have received the gift of God’s infinite grace and mercy, how do you plan on living that out? How do you want the Lord to help you live it out? Here we can ask the Lord to bestow upon us specific virtues, or gifts. Don’t be afraid to ask. Go big! Ask for everything and anything, your deepest and most hidden desires. God wants you to ask Him.
This logic of the thank you letter is fundamentally the basis for those written prayers of thanksgiving I mentioned earlier. In one way or another they all have the same movement: giving thanks for the gift received, and asking for specific ways to enjoy or keep the gift.
With this in mind, I encourage you to take the time after mass today to make these prayers of thanksgiving in whatever way you can. Life is busy and calls us in every direction. But if even for only 30 seconds, enough to say an “Our Father,” come back to the LORD as did that one leper and give thanks to Him for the gift of salvation He has bestowed upon you in the Eucharist.