Ivonne J. Hernandez explores the connection between thanksgiving, happiness, and the Eucharist.
Type “gratitude” on your google search engine, and you will find all sorts of information on how gratitude can increase your happiness. The number of self-help books on the topic would probably take a few lifetimes to read. From scientific research on the brain to psychological and social studies to religious and anti-religious experts … everyone seems to agree that gratitude is a good thing and that we need to learn how to practice it.
One of the first things parents teach their children is to say "thank you." Good parents know that teaching their children gratitude is very important. It is right and just to give thanks when someone has done something good for us, especially if they have gone out of their way for us. An attitude of gratitude makes us happier people. It makes us look out of ourselves and realize we can’t make it on our own. We need others, and, most of all, we need God, who is the source of every blessing.
Thanksgiving is the soul’s most delightful act of love as also the most pleasing to God; it is a perfect homage to His infinite goodness. The Eucharist itself is perfect thanksgiving. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving. Jesus Eucharistic renders thanks to His Father for us; He is our own thanksgiving. (St. Peter Julian Eymard)
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday to celebrate. When I was growing up, we would always go to my grandmother’s house, and I looked forward to sitting around the table with the whole family and eating some of my favorite foods. I didn’t learn to cook any of those foods, though, since everything was ready by the time we got there. The table was set before us, and the delicious food would just appear in front of us.
You set a table before me in front of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days. (Psalm 23:5-6)
I don’t think I ever thanked my grandma for all the hours she spent in the kitchen out of love for her family. I just didn’t know. It wasn’t until after I got married and cooked my first Thanksgiving meal (with recipes from a cookbook) that I realized how much work and time it takes. But now, when I am the one spending hours in the kitchen preparing a feast for my family, I think of my grandma, and I give thanks to God for all His goodness. My gratitude grew as my understanding of the sacrifice offered for me grew.
Thanksgiving characterizes the prayer of the Church which, in celebrating the Eucharist, reveals and becomes more fully what she is. (CCC 2637)
We are invited to the table. If we only knew! If we knew with what love that meal was prepared. If we understood the magnitude of the sacrifice, our hearts would live in thanksgiving. Our hearts would live united to the heart of Jesus in the Eucharist, who is “our own thanksgiving.” In celebrating the Eucharist, we turn our hearts to God. We realize that it is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere, to give God thanks.
And so, we approach the table of this wondrous Sacrament, so that, bathed in the sweetness of your grace, we may pass over to the heavenly realities here foreshadowed. (Preface II of the Most Holy Eucharist)
God doesn’t want us to be grateful for His good, but for ours. Like a good mother, Our Church, in requiring us to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, teaches us to say "thank you." This attitude of gratitude brings us happiness in this life, foreshadowing the joy we will experience one day in Heaven.
Copyright 2021 Ivonne J. Hernandez
Images: copyright 2015 Holy Cross Family Ministries, all rights reserved;
About the Author
Ivonne J. Hernandez is a Catholic wife, mother, writer, and speaker. She pursued a career in Computer Engineering before becoming a stay-at-home homeschooling mom to her three boys. She is a Lay Associate of the Blessed Sacrament, president of Elisheba House (non-profit Catholic media apostolate), and author of The Rosary: Eucharistic Meditations. For more information visit ElishebaHouse.com. Follow Ivonne on Facebook and Instagram.