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To give of ourselves is worth the risk

Archbishop Wenski's homily at annual ThanksforGiving Mass

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily at the annual ThanksforGiving Mass honoring parishioners who faithfully support the archdiocese through the ABCD campaign each year. The Mass was celebrated Nov. 18, 2018 at St. Mary Cathedral in Miami.

On Thanksgiving Day, you will gather with your family members and remember with gratitude the many ways in which God has blessed you. Today, we gather at the cathedral, the mother church of our archdiocese, for a special Eucharist – a word that itself means “thanksgiving.” And at this “thanksgiving” Mass, as your archbishop, I remember each of you with gratitude for your continued support of the Church here in South Florida through the ABCD, the Archbishop’s Charities and Development Campaign. Your support makes present Christ’s kingdom through the many works of tenderness, compassion and mercy made possible through the ABCD. So, if Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., today in the archdiocese is “Thanks-for-giving” Day.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches his homily at the annual ThanksforGiving Mass. The Mass acknowledges those who have consistently donated to the ArchBishop's Charities and Development appeal, and recognizes new members of the Archbishop Coleman Carroll Legacy Society, who remembered or promised to remember the archdiocese in their will. The Mass took place Nov. 18, 2018 at St. Mary Cathedral in Miami.

Photographer: ANA RODRIGUEZ-SOTO | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches his homily at the annual ThanksforGiving Mass. The Mass acknowledges those who have consistently donated to the ArchBishop's Charities and Development appeal, and recognizes new members of the Archbishop Coleman Carroll Legacy Society, who remembered or promised to remember the archdiocese in their will. The Mass took place Nov. 18, 2018 at St. Mary Cathedral in Miami.

Of course, we all know the story of that first Thanksgiving organized by those Protestant Pilgrims from England at Plymouth Colony way back in 1621. But, for those who know, there was another Thanksgiving celebrated even before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in what is now Massachusetts. And while I do not want to discount the significance of the origins of this very American holiday, we Catholics do well to remember that the very, very first Thanksgiving celebration in what is now the United States took place near St. Augustine, Florida. Not in 1621 but in 1565 – on September 8th when the Spanish explorer, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, and his companions attended Mass followed by a meal with the natives. That Thanksgiving Mass and meal was the first communal act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent European settlement in North America.

Here in the Archdiocese of Miami, not many of us can claim that our ancestors came over on the Mayflower – but there are quite of few of you who could possibly claim that some of your distant relations were with Pedro Menendez de Aviles in St. Augustine.

But what’s important today is not who were the first ones to come up with the idea of celebrating Thanksgiving; what’s important is that we celebrate it – and that we do so with grateful hearts.

Again, Eucharist means ‘thanksgiving’. The Mass is the perfect “Thanksgiving meal,” for united with Christ in his sacrificial gift of Himself, we give God thanks for the gift of our salvation, the gift of faith, the gift of knowing that we are loved by a merciful and compassionate God. He, of course, has no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank him is itself his gift to us. Our prayers of thanksgiving add nothing to God’s greatness, but they do make us grow in grace.

At the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago, the bishops reminded us that the way for us to find fulfillment, the way for us to realize ourselves, to become the people that God meant us to be is found not through self-seeking or self-assertion but rather through the sincere gift of ourselves to God and to our neighbor. 

Thanksgiving – and the possibility of being thankful – comes when we recognize that everything we have, everything we are – thanks to God – we have received freely. And having received so many blessings – not as some kind of entitlement but as gifts from God – should inspire us who have received freely to share these blessings freely with others.

At a time when many would want to write off the Church as irrelevant and, in view of the ascendant secularism of our age, would argue that living the faith coherently is not worth the risk or the investment, you still invest your time, talent and treasure in supporting her mission in the world. 

To give of ourselves is worth the risk. To be a disciple of faith and a missionary of hope by giving of our time, talent and treasure for the sake of the Gospel is the best investment we could ever make.

As we give God thanks for the freedoms and opportunities that we enjoy in this country – a country that has been described “as a nation with the soul of a church,” we pray that we will become a more just and fraternal nation, a nation where human life is protected from the moment of conception till natural death, a nation where marriage understood as a union between one man and one women is preserved, a nation where the family is honored and the dignity of the poor, and even the undocumented migrant, is respected.

So, before we gather with our families on Thanksgiving Day, and before Black Friday, we gather here to celebrate the Eucharist which is our “thanksgiving” for Jesus’ gift of himself on Good Friday – a gift that has brought joy and hope, light and peace, and has given our lives a new direction. 

One in Faith, One in Hope, One in Love, your support of the ABCD changes lives and through its many works of tenderness, compassion and mercy you make Christ’s kingdom real for so many. Again, thanks-for-giving.

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