Today is the Feast of Christ the King. It marks the culmination of another Liturgical Year, or more poetically, a Year of Grace. Next Sunday we begin a new liturgical cycle with the First Sunday of Advent. So Happy New Year!
Fittingly, we also celebrate the secular holiday of THANKSGIVING this coming Thursday. We all certainly have much for which to be thankful. I am particularly thankful for the Parish Mission that we had here Nov. 9-11, and especially for the very good turn-out of parishioners and others to the Mission. It was a most worthwhile experience, and I think all who attended enjoyed it. I know I did.
The theme of the mission focused on the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy as proclaimed by Pope Francis. Hopefully all of us will participate in the Year of Mercy by practicing mercy and working at being more merciful. I hope that we will not only do this as individuals, but also as a parish. How can we as St. Austin Catholic Parish practice mercy during this coming year?
I was impressed by Fr. Frank Desiderio’s definition of mercy as “having a heart for the poor.” Usually I think of mercy as being all about willingness to forgive, but he opened my understanding to a broader view of mercy. We, as a parish, probably don’t have a lot of forgiving to do this coming year, though I would be very hard pressed to find it in myself to forgive the vandals who graffiti our walls and exterior surfaces. But aside from that we are fortunate in that our needs and our opportunities to forgive are rather few.
But we as a parish certainly can practice having a heart for the poor. We do a fair job of that already – by our St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Thursday Outreach program, our participation in the Micah 6 Food Bank and the drop in center for homeless youth, support for St. Louise House, and various other programs we participate in. But we could get wider participation in these programs from our parishioners, a deeper understanding and appreciation of the needs we see around us, and more creative and effective ways of responding. There is no lack of genuine need immediately all around us!!! Hopefully we can figure out a way to be a more merciful community during this Jubilee Year and beyond. If you have any good ideas forward them to our Parish Pastoral Council.
A good place for us to start, I think, is gratitude. With Thanksgiving this Thursday, I encourage you to spend some time each day consciously and purposely being grateful. If you are breathing, you have something for which to be grateful. We all have much for which to be grateful. But because we take so much of it for granted so much of the time, we need to stop, think, reflect, remember and recall some of the MANY reasons we have to be grateful. And I think doing that prepares us for moving forward to mercy.
So I wish you a great Thanksgiving. Not just good food and drink and football, but a deep and authentic sense of Gratitude. It will pay benefits to you.