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FORUM: What We Should Really Be Thankful for This Thanksgiving: Grace, Salvation, Mercy and Holiness

«I encourage every family to ask themselves, and ask the Lord, what they can do this year so that by next Thanksgiving others will have experienced God’s blessings through their efforts»

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Here is the latest column from Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, reprinted from the Southern Nebraska Register.

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Next week, most of us will celebrate Thanksgiving around family tables, gathered with those we love, to give thanks to God for the blessings of our lives. We will share a festive meal together, celebrate the gift of family life, and enjoy the comforts of friendship.

But as we give thanks for the blessings of our own lives, we should also remember those who suffer tragedy around the world.  

As we give thanks this year, we might remember those who were victims of last week’s horrible terrorist attack in Paris. We might also think of the Christians who are persecuted now in the Middle East—Christians who have lost their homes, their jobs, their families—and who face the cross of martyrdom today. As we give thanks to the Lord, we should remember the homeless, the mentally ill, the elderly and disabled, and the unborn—those who suffer on the margins of our own communities, and even within our own families.

As we honor God for the blessings in our own lives, it seems to me that we might remember two things this Thanksgiving.  

The first is that God’s greatest blessings are grace, salvation, mercy, and holiness—not material comfort or prosperity. We should be careful to remember this Thanksgiving that the measure of a blessed life is not what we have, but who we have become, in and through Jesus Christ. We should remember that if we want to experience the blessings of the Lord in an abundant way, we should seek only to live according to the Gospel, with no fear, no limitations, and no reservations. The surest path to experiencing a blessed life in Jesus Christ is to “cast into the deep”—seeking to follow the Lord to a life of radical and blessed missionary discipleship.  

We should also remember that we are to bless others through the witness of our own family life. Our families are called to discipleship. The mission to bring grace, peace, mercy, and freedom to others depends on us. We are called to “make disciples of all nations,” and that the abundant grace of God is revealed through our witness. This past week, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz reminded the Church that “all families are called to be ministers of the Gospel.”  

During this Thanksgiving, I urge every family in the Diocese of Lincoln to reflect prayerfully on their own family life. I ask families to ask themselves how they are missionaries of the Gospel, what their apostolic call is, and how they can proclaim and witness to the Gospel in order to bring the Lord’s love to others. I encourage every family to ask themselves, and ask the Lord, what they can do this year so that by next Thanksgiving others will have experienced God’s blessings through their efforts. 

I am truly blessed by the priests, consecrated religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Lincoln and I give thanks for your witness. I am blessed by your prayers, your friendship, your generosity—especially in the Joy of the Gospel campaign—and by your work as “missionary disciples” for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us give thanks to the Lord together this Thanksgiving. 

And let us commit ourselves to giving our lives to the mission of Jesus Christ and his Church, so that others might give thanks to God because of the mission, the work, and the charity in our lives.

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