Thanksgiving is a time to take stock of our many blessings: our families, friends, health, freedom—and the remarkable bounty that provides for our needs.
Certainly there are needs, wants and injustices in this country that prompt our concern and action, but consider that at the very least our well-developed food supply chain ensures that there will be plenty to eat.
Even if there is a drought that disrupts the harvest we celebrate every autumn, we won’t go hungry. Millions of small-scale farmers and poor urban dwellers wish that they could enjoy that kind of resilience. Catholic Relief Services works alongside them every day to make their resilience a reality.
But as we contemplate a table groaning under the weight of the food we will soon put on it—and the friends and family we will share it with—I want to draw your attention to an even more fundamental gift from our generous God.
The gift is the most important one that we will ever receive. As a gift, it costs us nothing, at least in material terms, but I ask you to consider what it demands of us.
It is the gift of God’s eternal grace, which can’t be measured, and which comes from the infinite love that is our Lord. What could be more precious?
What do we do with this gift? In this season of giving thanks, how can we give thanks for this valuable gift?
The answer, I find, is to dedicate ourselves to the life God intends for us. That is not just the big picture of Church and career and family; it is the small things, the day-to-day realities, the way we treat people we encounter whether they are strangers or friends, children or parents, a spouse or a sibling. Each encounter is a choice and we should make those choices with God—with his love and compassion—in mind.
These are the choices we must consider as we face the many problems the world presents to us. How do we treat those suffering from Ebola? How do we treat those who face violence and deprivation in the Central African Republic and in South Sudan? How do we treat those who seek refuge from violence in gang-torn neighborhoods of Central America?
Giving thanks for the gift of grace means recognizing that there is no such thing as a stranger, that everyone we encounter is a member of our family, of God’s family. And that is true of the millions—of the billions of people—we never encounter. To contemplate this, to realize this, to understand it on a fundamental level is a responsibility that comes with this most important gift.
At CRS, we believe that the Gospels call us to work in many ways to serve the family of mankind—our neighbors—to ensure justice and establish peace. This is hard, complicated work. It involves risk. It demands our dedication, our creativity, our intelligence, and our compassion.
It is a privilege to do this work: to take the gift of grace and spread its riches as far as we can, knowing that our generous God will multiply our efforts.
I know what I will be thankful for this Thanksgiving: that I have been given the opportunity to do this work at CRS, to carry out this Gospel mission. It is such a privilege. How lucky I am that God chose this path for me.
I am thankful that you have joined CRS on this path. We are inspired by you. We learn from you. We humble ourselves before you as we seek to serve you, and to be one pathway to discovering the breadth of the wonderful family God has put on this earth.
So I will also give thanks for each and every one of you.
May blessings overflow,
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO
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