As we gather with our loved ones for Thanksgiving, we call to mind the tradition of sitting around the table expressing thanks for blessings given. Especially on Thanksgiving, we take the time to think about those people and things in our lives that we appreciate, and we offer prayers of gratitude to God. We think of the blessings of family, shelter, security, friends and faith.
While this verbal expression of thanks is a beautiful means of celebrating the holiday, I would like to invite and challenge you to celebrate your blessings in a tangible way. I encourage you to consider giving thanks through works and actions. As St. John tells us, "Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth" (1 Jn 3:18). We are constantly reminded in our faith to reach out to others, and we can do this in many ways in throughout our diocese. For example, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I join dedicated volunteers in serving meals at Christ House. Service is a living prayer, and as we offer our thanks to the Lord for all He has given us in our daily lives, let us remember that to serve others is to live out the commandment to love our neighbor.
Our parish and diocesan ministries are fitting places to reach out and serve others. Throughout the years, Catholic Charities' shelter for the homeless in Alexandria, Christ House, welcomes the donations of time and resources toward food preparation and service at their thrift store. Other opportunities include prison ministry, elderly care and English as a Second Language classes. The diocese also offers other occasions for service such as being a tutor in our refugee office, acting as a mentor as they begin life in our country. Each parish also has unique ways to serve, and I urge you to contact your local parish to determine how you might be of help to your community. Whatever kind of service you do, brothers and sisters, remember that, "This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God" (2 Cor 9:12). I encourage you to search your heart for the service opportunity for which you feel your God-given talents are right.
We do not live for ourselves alone, and service is the way we live in community with those around us. It is easy to get caught up in the daily duties and rituals, but our hearts and minds naturally turn to service this time of year, and in doing so we are able to prepare for the Lord's coming in the approaching Advent season. "For the Christian, ‘to reign is to serve him [Jesus Christ],' particularly when serving ‘the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder'" (CCC No. 786). Our service to others is how we come to see God in our lives, and the more we seek Him, the more He will reveal Himself to us.
Thanksgiving is a time to be with loved ones, pause and reflect on what God has given us. It is a time to reflect not only on material blessings, but also on the blessings of our talents and abilities, and above all, on the gift of our faith. I encourage you this season to think of your blessings, and in what ways you might bring them more fully to our community. We are called to share our faith and talents with others, and one way to do this is to lead by the example of selfless service. Daily, I keep each one of you in my prayers and count you in my blessings as I pray for a blessed and happy Thanksgiving for you all.