Before leaving the sacred gathering, all present say, “Thanks be to God!” In this way the Mass ends very much where it begins, with thanks.
St. Paul urges the Ephesians to sing God’s praises to one another. When we first gather for Mass, then, we sing about all of God’s praiseworthy attributes — His creation, His mercy, His love.
We then make the sign of the cross, a gesture which itself is an indication of thanksgiving to God for having revealed Himself as the Creator, having come among us as the Son, and now remaining with us in Holy Spirit.
After each of the readings we thank God because He has revealed His truths to us. Through these lessons we are reminded that we can live in peace amidst the turbulence of this changing world because the Scriptures speak of the hope of the righteous, those who live according to the standards laid down by God.
The long eucharistic prayer, during which the bread and the wine are consecrated to become the Body and the Blood of Christ, is really a long declaration of thanksgiving. Each of the eucharistic prayers permitted by the church speak of thanks in some place or another. In one we say “we offer You, Lord, the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation, giving thanks that You have held us worthy to be in Your presence.” In another we pray “… as we look forward to His second coming, we offer You, in thanksgiving, this holy and living sacrifice.”
The whole reason that the Christian people gather as a communion in church is to give thanks to God. There is no better way to do so than to perpetuate the sacrifice of His Son, which is what “do this in memory of me” really means.
In recent years the term “Eucharist,” or “thanksgiving,” has been revived to describe the Body and Blood of the Lord and the entire celebration in which our simple gifts of bread and wine are transformed. The early Greek-speaking Romans thought that “eucharist” was the best term to describe what they did each Sunday when they gathered to celebrate the revelation of Jesus.
To reply “thanks be to God,” at the invitation to “go in peace” may sound as if it’s a response of gratitude that we can finally go home.
However, understanding peace not as the absence of war but as a state of having lived up to the standard set by the Lord to do as He has asked in His memory makes it clear why we say thank You to God.
To enter into the spirit of the Mass we need to develop an awareness of our daily blessings and a sense of thankfulness for them as having come from God. Then, when we come to the altar, we will indeed lift up our hearts to God because we want to say thanks for all He has bestowed on us. Sharing in the Mass is as simple as that. This is the standard God has set for us.
In this sense it is no wonder that St. Paul says to give thanks always for all things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.