I remember a classic TV commercial where a guy wakes up early in the morning. He has a tough time getting his act together. Stumbling around, he just can’t seem to get going until he’s finish shaving, and all of a sudden, he slaps himself silly putting on his after shave. He says: “Thanks, I needed that”, and he awake and ready to take on the world. That may be part of my problem: I don’t get that refreshing slap of Brut in the morning, so I have a tough time getting going. Don’t make any bets that I’m going to shave.
Gratitude is something that is important in our lives. When we realize what we owe, it changes our entire attitude. It gives us a lot of respect for someone, or something, makes us feel alive. Gratitude changes us, changes our relationships, changes our outlook. Gratitude opens worlds for us.
In today’s first reading, Moses is speaking to the people of Israel. They have endured the slavery of Egypt, the struggles to be free, the plagues, the Passover, the pursuit from Egypt. They are in the desert, and Moses is helping them find a new identity, embrace a relationship with God. It was a relationship between God and a people that was unique in the ancient world: in other cultures, the Gods were impetuous immortals that did whatever they wanted to just for the heck of it, and they only did what people wanted to when they were bought off. People didn’t want to come to the attention of Gods on a regular basis, because they would mess with you just for the heck of it, and getting involved with one God meant that you were in trouble with another. Moses points out to them how their experience is unique in the Ancient World: God has not only created the world for them in all its wonder and blessing, but also intervened to deliver them from slavery and bring them into freedom. Moses invites the Israelite to respond in gratitude to all they have received from God by living the lives God has called them to live. Obeying the commandments and statutes they received in the desert is about embracing a new identity and responding to love.
Figuring out the Trinity has always been difficult. When St. Patrick was preaching the Trinity to some Irish tribes, they got nasty; their chief told him that if he didn’t start doing better, they were probably going to kill him. He looked down and saw a shamrock, and picking this up, he was able to describe the Trinity in a unique way. One plant, one stem, three leaves. This settled the crowd, and St. Patrick was able to continue his career of preaching. There are many images we can call on to help us understand the Trinity, as far as we can understand it. As Christians we are called to respond in love to the God who has done much for us. God the Father created the world, made a covenant with a people, intervened in history. God the Son came to show us the path of life, to die for us and rise from the dead. God the Spirit comes into our lives to guide us, to bring us together, and to call us to remember all that has been done for us. We come here to get slapped across the face, and we need it. We can tend to forget who we are and how we got here.
Gratitude is what we’re here to embrace, to give thanks and praise for all we have. The word “Eucharist” comes from the Greek word for “Thanksgiving.” Gratitude is where we begin as we share this meal together, and it is gratitude that calls us to live as Christ has shown us. This big gratitude is the beginning of a lot of little gratitudes for different people who have come into our lives, people that God has given us and given us the chance to be with, share with. Every friend we have is a presence of God that blesses us.
So let us give thanks for the wake up call. Smack, smack. Who loves you? Who made all this possible? Who’s going to stay with you to the end? Who’s going to take you where you want to go? Remember, give thanks, and do something about it.