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With the exception of one letter (Galatians), Paul begins writing with a thank-you to God. In fact, there is a really beautiful thank you that introduces the first letter to the Corinthians. Paul is so happy, ecstatic, at the gifts that God will bestow on his Corinthian Church. But just after the gratitude to God, the fireworks begin. Bad Corinthians. First, they are divided. When the Corinthians get together to celebrate the Eucharist, the rich go in one room and the poor eat in another. Why do they eat at different locations? So the rich will get the better choice of wine, while the poor get stuck with the stuff that is turning to vinegar. That is not very nice. Then Paul reports that some of the Christians are sleeping around. That is not good. Then Paul is upset that Christians are taking other Christians to court and suing them. That has to stop. The Corinthians should be embarrassed because for the next two thousand years and beyond this letter will be read in every church in every part of the world. So here is my question. Why is Paul so thankful at the beginning of the letter when it seems that Paul has nothing to be thankful about?

Paul is not grateful to God for the past, but for the future. He sees that despite all of the obstacles, God will give them the potential for greatness. For Paul, it is okay to anticipate graces in the future. It is good practice to thank God now for gifts that we will receive in the future.  

We often look to the past to be grateful to God. For example, I may look to the past to thank God for giving me a great family upbringing. I look to the past to thank God for finding a nice religious community like the Oblates of the Virgin Mary. I look to the past to thank God for sending me to St. Clement Shrine to work.

Here is the problem. There are many people who look to the past and have nothing to be thankful for. Many who are in prison for long periods may not see much in the past that give them gratitude. There are the forgotten in nursing homes, others who lost a soulmate, or those struggling with unhealthy lifestyles may not see anything in the past that gives them gratitude. Paul speaks to these people: “You are looking in the wrong direction. You need to look to the future to see God’s gifts and blessings.” The word Eucharist means thanksgiving, so if you are going to be thankful to God, make sure you are looking in the right direction.

When I was growing up, I knew a group of deer hunters. I asked one of them why he hunts for deer. This is what he told me. “When I go to the supermarket all the meat is neatly packaged in plastic wrap. The store is clean and happy there. I even hear nice music. When I go hunting I hear the cry of the deer. I see the animal fall, and I feel the blood on my hands. I see the deer make the ultimate sacrifice so that I can live another day. That sticks with me. I am always grateful for food.”

When we come together to celebrate the Eucharist, we never hear Christ’s cry on the cross. We do not see the nails or the violent thrust of the spear in his side. We are, however, reminded that someone made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could have eternal life. We celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi this week so that we will never forget that it is okay to thank God today for the future gifts such as eternal life. 

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