These prayers of Thanksgiving after Confession remind us how important “gratitude in our attitude” can be in our relationship with our Creator. As the priest says to God the Father in one of the Eucharistic prayers at Mass “It is truly right and just, our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks”.
The term Eucharist itself that we use to refer to the Sacrament where Jesus becomes really present to us in Mass in communion, comes from the Greek word “eucharistia” meaning “thanksgiving”. The first of our prayers of Thanksgiving touches on some memorable scripture passages:
I return unto You, O Lord Jesus, and give You thanks that You have been pleased to cleanse me from the foul leprosy of my sins. Blessed be Your Name, O Lord, forever and ever. Truly you are a Savior Who rejects none that come unto You seriously desiring to repent, but receives them into Your favor, and numbers them with Your children. I acknowledge and adore Your mercy, and dedicate myself wholly to Your service hereafter. Assist my weakness and suffer me not again to fall into my past sins and to be separated from You; but so bind my heart and soul to You with the cords of Your love, that I may say with the Apostle” “Who shall separate me from the love of Christ?”
Speaking of the “foul leprosy” of sins, this picture above depicts Christ healing a leper (as mentioned in Matt 8:2 and Mark 1:40). We are also reminded of the miracle in Luke’s Gospel (17:11-19) where Jesus cures ten lepers at once! (Yet only one of them comes back to give Him thanks. Our Lord Himself makes note of this.)
The final scripture passage comes from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, in which he asks “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” He answers in a stirring fashion that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, not depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom 8:35, 38-39).
This prayer makes reference to the only thing that can separate us from Jesus: sin! Fortunately we have Confession as our remedy for this spiritually toxic affliction. (As a reminder, sin itself may either weaken our bonds with our Lord, in venial sin, or break them altogether, in mortal sin.)
The second of our prayers of Thanksgiving after Confession was written by St. Gertrude the Great, a 13th century Benedictine nun and mystic who also wrote a well-known Prayer to release souls from Purgatory. (She mentions the Souls in Purgatory in this prayer):
O Almighty and merciful God, whose mercy is boundless, and the riches of whose goodness are infinite, I give Thee thanks with all my mind and heart for the amazing and exceeding goodness which Thou hast now shown me in so graciously pardoning all my sins and restoring me to Thy grace and favor. Blessed be Thy Divine compassion, O my God, and blessed be the incomprehensible love of Thy beloved Son, which constrained Him to institute so gentle and so mighty a remedy for our sins. Wherefore, in union with all the thanksgivings which have ever ascended to Thee from truly penitent hearts, I sing aloud Thy glad praises on behalf of all in Heaven, on earth, and in Purgatory, forever and ever. Amen.
Note that God wishes us to show thanksgiving for his blessings and contrition for our sins, for our sake, for our advancement in Holiness. When we confess our sins to Christ through the priest, it is not for Our Lord’s edification. He already knows them, as much as He knows the numbers of hairs on our heads (Matt 10:30; Luke 12:7). Rather, it is for us to realize that we have sinned and by our own free will, to have the humility and love for God to express this to another human being acting in His name!
So it is that thanksgiving can make us more holy. Don’t you always feel more loving and in tune with someone when you feel grateful for what they've done for you? In realizing God’s blessings, we can deal more easily with our sins, and also with the hardships we encounter so often in our daily lives.
Gratitude reminds us that we are in the hands of a loving God who wishes to help us in the midst of our infirmities to get to heaven, where he will wipe away every tear in a place where there will be no more death, mourning, crying, nor pain (Rev. 21:4).
In this regard, think of these lines from another one of the prayers said by the priest at Mass “our thanksgiving is itself your gift, since our praises add nothing to your greatness but profit us for salvation, through Christ our Lord.” Our gratitude helps God to help us!