November 26, 2021

Christ the Cornerstone

Gratitude leads us to hope and joy

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“May the Lord strengthen your hearts at the coming of our Lord Jesus” (1 Thes 3:13).

Yesterday, we celebrated the great American holiday of Thanksgiving. If we were fortunate enough to be with people we love, we joined them in setting aside the sorrows and anxieties of the past 20 months, and we gave thanks for the many blessings we experienced even in the midst of health crises, economic hardship and social unrest.

Gratitude is more contagious than any pandemic. It soothes our bitterness, resentment and fear, and it opens the eyes of our hearts to see how blessed we truly are in spite of our difficulties. Simply by saying “thank you” for whatever blessings—large or small—we have received, we can find relief from whatever pain we feel in our minds, hearts or bodies.

Thanksgiving is a secular holiday here in the United States of America, but its roots are found in the deeply religious experiences of the women and men who came to this land as immigrants in search of a better life. We naturally think of the pilgrims who came from Europe in search of religious freedom, as they understood it, but we should also consider the experiences of the native peoples whose ancestors came to this continent many generations earlier. And, of course, we should remember the millions of immigrants who have come here (and continue to come) because of the prospect of a better life for their families.

We are all the children of immigrants, and we should be deeply grateful for the blessings of this great land. Even the worst experiences in our nation’s history—including slavery, racism, nativism, greed, political oppression and unspeakable crimes against the most vulnerable members of our society—cannot completely overshadow the gifts we have received as a people struggling to make freedom, justice and peace realities in our society.

This year, we celebrated Thanksgiving in spite of many challenges in our society and in our Church. We are not naïve. Sin and evil surround us every day, but as long as we can find room in our hearts to say “thank you” for the good things that we enjoy as a result of God’s bounty, we can share in the joy of heaven, both here and now and in the life to come.

By the providence of God, this year our archdiocese is participating in a synod process along with all other dioceses throughout the world. We are trying to be more conscious of the fact that we are not alone, that we journey together as members of God’s family, and that the end or goal of this earthly pilgrimage is the joy of communion with Christ and with all members of his body, the Church.

Gratitude is an essential feature of this synodal process. By constantly giving thanks, we can walk together with minds and hearts that are unburdened. By sharing our gifts with others as we walk together in faith, we become better disposed to encounter Christ in our fellow travelers. By listening prayerfully to God’s word as the Holy Spirit guides us along the way, we can gradually discern what God is asking us—as individuals and as a Church—to do as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.

This Sunday, we will once again begin a new Church year with a season of waiting, a time of expectation and longing. If we embrace this special time, Advent will prepare us to celebrate Christmas, which is less than a month away, without falling into the trap of superficial or unrealistic expectations. Advent teaches us that the greatest gift of Christmas is the Lord himself, and it shows us that a personal encounter with Jesus Christ is what we truly hope for during this synodal process (and always). Advent reminds us that all the joys of Christmas, and of the Lord’s second coming, can truly be ours—if we journey together prayerfully.

Authentic gratitude requires patience, trust and a firm belief that God will hear and answer our prayers. We pray that the Lord will give us everything we truly desire, and need, and that this worldwide synodal process will help to unite us and lead us to Christ, our greatest source of joy, who is coming again as he promised.

And, so, we pray: Come, Lord Jesus. Help us journey together in gratitude and in joyful hope. Prepare us for Christmas and for your coming again. Remove all the obstacles—our frustrations, pain and anger—that prevent us from walking together as brothers and sisters who long to receive you with joy. May we gratefully share your love with others and, so, become one with you always. †

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