Thanksgiving & the unceasing gift of mercyBy: Bishop Edward M. Rice
What an honor it has been for me to remember your deceased loved ones in my daily Mass and prayers at the residence chapel. The baskets of cards, filled with the names of your deceased loved ones, are a visual reminder of my commitment to pray for your intention. My prayers continue beyond the month of November.
Attributes of prayer
As a young seminarian, I was taught the four ends of worship—adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication. These four attitudes of prayer flow from the heart of the creature to the Creator and express our worship of God. As we come to the end of November, the entire country participates in the celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday. For some, that will include genuine thanks for what has been given them over the past year. For others, it means football, food, or shopping. As Catholics, we should have a deep and profound sense of thanksgiving. The word “Eucharist” is a Greek word meaning “thanks” or “gratitude.” For Catholics, to give thanks is a spiritual act that acknowledges the good things that come from God. So, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, let our celebration be united to the greatest act of thanksgiving, the Eucharist, Christ himself.
From the Eucharist, the gift of the Body and Blood of Christ, flows “Adoration.” In adoration we acknowledge the greatness, the otherness, the mystery of God. In this regard, the definition of the “fear of the Lord,” one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is helpful. Fear of the Lord does not mean we are afraid of God. No, it means that we are so aware of the goodness, holiness, and mystery of God, that we “fear” to offend Him. It challenges us to look at our thoughts, words, and actions in reference to God. The term calls us to deeper conversion. One of the best ways to “adore” is in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. When we spend time before our Lord, exposed in a monstrance or in the tabernacle, we lift our hearts to the Lord in a spirit of prayer and adoration. In the diocese, we are so blessed to have adoration offered in so many of our parishes. In addition, the chapel at Saint Francis Hospital, Cape Girardeau, offers perpetual Adoration 24 hours a day. In Springfield, Holy Trinity Parish will initiate 24 hours of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in their parish chapel beginning Jan. 1, 2017. I ask all of Springfield to rally with them to support this beautiful effort and to commit to an hour of Adoration weekly. Next, it would be great if we could have a 24-hour Adoration Chapel throughout the diocese! Then, in addition to the Adoration each parish is able to offer, there would be other centers of Eucharistic Adoration, and it would grow from there! What a blessing this would be for us, especially in praying for our youth and bringing them to a deeper appreciation for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament! I would hope that our priests would lead the way by their own example of spending time before the Blessed Sacrament in their parishes. To quote St. John Paul II, “May our adoration never cease.”
Closing of the Year of Mercy
With the Feast of Christ the King, Nov. 20, the Year of Mercy officially came to an end. But, at the same time, mercy never ends. When first declared last year by Pope Francis, a Protestant Church in St. Louis put on their property’s signage, “Mercy Is More Than A Year.” While some did not appreciate that thought, finding in it a poke at Catholics, it rang true to me. So now that the official year is coming to a close, it is up to us, the members of the Church, to keep mercy in the forefront of life. Indeed, mercy is more than just a year, and if it were all to come to an end, then the Jubilee Year of Mercy was a colossal waste of time.
Prior to his official declaration of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis called for a Revolution of Tenderness. Let the revolution now begin! The canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta will hopefully inspire us to the acts of mercy. “She taught that the poor are not only those who are starving for a piece of bread, but the poor might be someone in your own family who is starving for love. Each person she ministered to was ‘Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor’” (St. Anthony Messenger, Sept. 2016). Armed with our own experience of mercy and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, let us always be instruments of mercy and forgiveness for others. Armed with the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, let us go out to those in need. May our acts of mercy never cease.
Also with the Feast of Christ the King, marks the end of the liturgical year. The beautiful preface for the Mass tells us that His kingdom is “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.” As we anticipate the Advent Season with the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27, 2016, I hope that everyone will use the weeks leading up to Christmas to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the birth of Christ. Like the angels, may our voices cry out, “Glory to God.” Like the Magi, may we come to adore. Like Mary, may we ponder in our hearts the mystery of the Incarnation. Two ways to prepare for the coming of Christ have already been mentioned. First, during Advent, let us encounter the mercy of God in the sacrament of reconciliation. If you have not been to Confession in awhile, I encourage you to do so during the Advent Season. Second, spend time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In fact, make a commitment to yourself: Whenever you shop during the Advent Season, make a point to stop by your parish church and make a visit with the Lord, assuming the church is open!
May our mercy never cease.
May our adoration never cease. A blessed Advent season to all. ©TM