On attending my friend’s wedding some years ago I learnt that there is no tradition of speechmaking at a wedding reception in Spain. Not being a fan myself of such things, I was delighted; it left more time in the proceedings for eating and drinking. Some of my fellow Liverpool guests were left a little disconcerted by this, however. ‘I just think someone should say, “thank you,”’ said one. Such feelings, prompted by polite upbringing and English sensibilities, may be understandable but I did think that that day we had all said, ‘thank you.’ Bride and bridegroom had celebrated the Sacrament of Matrimony in Mass. We had all participated that day in the Eucharist, the great thanksgiving, giving thanks that love triumphs over all.
When we give thanks at Mass, the past is renewed, the present is transformed, and the future is made already present. In this thanksgiving, hope is generated by recalling past mercies. What we know from the past of the power and love of God gives us confidence in the continued mercy of God despite whatever may be going on in our lives to try us.
The pages of our Scriptures are alive with the stories of men and women who did not always enjoy success and wealth as the world understands those things and yet were women and men who hoped in the promise of God that all would be fulfilled in God’s kingdom. They could then give thanks. They proved themselves to be the truly happy ones and so it can be for us as we give thanks for the daily blessings we receive from God. In the Eucharist, we unite our thanks not only with the thanks of all those faithful men and women of the past but we are caught up and included in the prayer of Jesus giving everything to the Father as he hung on the cross.
In the Eucharist, past and present are gathered into one as together we look with anticipation for the dawn of the promised fulfilment of the Kingdom of God. In this banquet and sacrifice, we can already thank God for the final and complete victory of God at the end of time. That is assured; we are given even now a foretaste of this victory in the sacramental meal. After-dinner speeches of thanks just will not do. The thanks we give are the meal itself.