During this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI has called us "to rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed." This, he says, "is a task that every believer must make his own" (Porta Fidei, 9).
One important way we can rediscover the faith that is celebrated is to reflect on the liturgical texts of the Church found in the Roman Missal. Doing so as we in these United States of America celebrate Thanksgiving Day can offer us a profound insight into what it means to give thanks.
We should never forget the ancient maxim lex orandi, lex credendi, which roughly means "the law of prayer is the law of belief." In this principle we remember that our worship of God is the foundation of all that we are.
There is a common thread uniting the prayers Holy Mother Church has given us to use on Thanksgiving Day.
The Collect - which gathers our various individual prayers together at the beginning of the Mass and presents them to the Father - recalls that the Father's "gifts of love are countless" and asks the Lord to "open our hearts to have concern for every man, woman, and child, so that we may share your gifts in loving service." The Prayer Over the Offerings similarly asks the Father that "we might learn to share your blessings in gratitude" while the Prayer after Communion asks that we will be helped "to reach out in love to all your people, so that we may share with them the good things of time and eternity."'
The common thread uniting the prayers together is the recognition that gratitude for God's copious blessings must lead to a willingness to share these gifts with others, with friends and families, with enemies and strangers. The preface makes this common thread more explicit when it recalls that the gift of freedom is "a gift that calls forth responsibility and commitment to the truth that all have a fundamental dignity before you."
The gifts that we have received from God are not simply ours to keep, but are given to us to be shared freely, with loving and joyful hearts.
Here we remember the words of the Lord Jesus, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me," and, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it not to me" (Matthew 25:40, 45).
This is why the Holy Father reminds us that "confessing with the lips indicates in turn that faith implies public testimony and commitment. A Christian may never think of belief as a private act. Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him" (Porta Fidei, 10). This is why to the maxim lex orandi, lex credendi is often added the phrase lex vivendi: the law of prayer is the law of belief is the law of life. What the Church prayers is the faith of the Church we should direct the way we live.
As we give thanks today for the many gifts with which the Lord has blessed us - among which we should especially recall the gifts of faith and of freedom - let us ask above all for hearts as generous as his that we imitate him in all things. Let us beg the grace to give generously and never count the cost because, as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, "Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other" (Porta Fidei, 14).
To you and to yours, I wish a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving!