A man and a woman are chatting over dinner. The woman says, "John, are we ever going to get married?" The man obviously doesn't want to answer this question. He splutters a little and replies, "Uh, thank you." It works! The woman is so pleased to hear these two words that she forgets all about the question she has just asked.
You may have seen this commercial. There's a similar one that shows one woman approaching another, rather substantially built woman in the supermarket, and making some comment about, "when is the baby due?" But, oh dear, the second woman isn't even expecting! Thinking fast, the first woman gets out of this embarrassing predicament by saying, "Thank you!" Leaving the viewers puzzled about what the thanks might be for.
It seems kind of silly, doesn't it? But these commercials do make a point about the importance of those two little words: "Thank you!" And they also serve as a reminder that in today's world, we neither say nor hear them often enough.
Of course, it's important to remember to say "thank you" to our family and friends, our co-workers and neighbors. It's such a simple way to show our appreciation for the nice things they do. How much more, then, do we owe our thanksgivings to Almighty God, who has done so much more. In fact, nothing that we give to each other or do for each other would be possible without God. "Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, if from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change," we read in the Letter of James."
In his little book, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, Brother David Steindl-Rast writes about the importance of give and take. "The receiver of the gift depends on the giver," he writes. "Obviously so. But the circle of gratefulness is incomplete until the giver of the gift becomes the receiver: a receiver of thanks. When we give thanks we give something greater than the gift we received, whatever it was. The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks we give ourselves. One who says, "thank you' to another really says, "We belong together.' Giver and thanks-giver belong together."
"It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth." Do these words sound familiar? Of course, we'll be hearing them in just a few minutes, when we begin that part of our Eucharistic celebration called "The Great Thanksgiving." If we follow Brother David's line of reasoning, it would seem that our giving thanks to God closes the circle; it brings us closer to God; it says, in effect, to God: "We belong together; that is, we belong to you, we belong with you."
That is the reason we come together today. "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God." And you know the answer to that: "It is right to give [God] thanks and praise." Amen.