During the upcoming week we celebrate Thanksgiving where, as a culture, we pause to give
thanks to God for the blessings of this past year. I will certainly be thanking God this week for all of you
and the blessing you have been to me since I arrived here as your pastor. I am deeply blessed by your
presence in my life. Thanks!
One of the things people should give thanks for on Thanksgiving is their family. Remembering
the importance of the gift of family, I thought I would give you a few words from Pope Francis. This is
taken from his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of Love, which was written following the synod on the
“Christ proposed as the distinctive sign of his disciples the law of love and the gift of self for others. He
did so in stating a principle that fathers and mothers tend to embody in their own lives: “No one has
greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Love also bears fruit in mercy and
forgiveness. We see this in a particular way in the scene of the woman caught in adultery; in front of the
Temple, the woman is surrounded by her accusers, but later, alone with Jesus, she meets not
condemnation but the admonition to lead a more worthy life.
Against this backdrop of love so central to the Christian experience of marriage and the family, another
virtue stands out, one often overlooked in our world of frenetic and superficial relationships. It is
tenderness. Let us consider the moving words of Psalm 131. As in other biblical texts, the union between the Lord and his faithful ones is expressed in terms of parental love. Here we see a delicate and tender intimacy between mother and child: the image is that of a babe sleeping in his mother’s arms after being nursed. As the Hebrew word gamûl suggests, the infant is now fed and clings to his mother, who takes him to her bosom. There is a closeness that is conscious and not simply biological. Drawing on this image, the Psalmist sings: “I have calmed them with cords of compassion, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them.” The word of God tells us that the family is entrusted to a man, a woman and their children, so that they may become a communion of persons in the image of the union of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Begetting and raising children, for its part, mirrors God’s creative work. The family is called to join in daily prayer, to read the word of God and to share in Eucharistic communion, and thus to grow in love and become ever more fully a temple in which the Spirit dwells. Every family should look to the icon of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Its daily life had its share of burdens and even nightmares, as when they met with Herod’s implacable violence. This last was an experience that, sad to say, continues to afflict the many refugee families who in our day feel rejected and helpless. Like the Magi, our families are invited to contemplate the Child and his Mother, to bow down and worship him. Like Mary, they are asked to face their family’s challenges with courage and serenity, in good times and bad, and to keep in their heart the great things which God has done.”
I have always liked the Spanish word for “thanks” which is “gracias.” The word is also used to
describe God’s activity with us, “gracia” or grace. To use the word to express gratitude expresses then,
at the same time, the awareness of the presence of God. Giving thanks this week will, hopefully, help
you to see God’s activity in your life.