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Be countercultural and thank God

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his mercy endures forever,” sings the Psalmist as he praises God for keeping him safe in spite of his trials. This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving, a time when we should give thanks for all that the Lord has done for us.

If you are able to attend Mass on Thanksgiving Day, you will hear St. Luke recall Jesus’ encounter with the 10 lepers who came to him for healing. This powerful story serves as a reminder of the importance of making thanks a part of our prayer life–even a daily part.

Not much has changed between Jesus’ time and ours. As he was entering a village, 10 men with leprosy called out, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” This is how prayer begins for many of us–we start by asking the Lord for what we want or need, but we seldom begin with giving thanks.

Jesus tells the 10 lepers to go and show themselves to the priests, in keeping with the Law of Moses which required priests to declare lepers clean.

Out of 10 men, only one responded by “glorifying God in a loud voice.” When our prayers are heard, do we respond by giving thanks to God? In our secular culture, the most frequent response we hear to good news is something like, “how lucky for you,” or “I’m happy for you,” but it is rare to hear someone attribute their blessing to God.

In a society that is increasingly forgetting God, our faith in the Father’s active love for us calls us to be countercultural, to be like the Samaritan leper, who recognized God’s presence in his life with thanks.

As Jesus said in response to the lepers’ different reactions, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”

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To help you grow in a spirituality of thanksgiving, I want to share some of the things that I am thankful for this year.

During the past year I have had the chance to visit 34 parishes in the archdiocese. It has been uplifting to see the witness of Catholics living in places like Rifle and Silt, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of St. Nicholas Parish in Platteville, to dedicate a beautiful new church in Steamboat Springs, and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sacred Heart in Peetz.

Throughout the year I also had the chance to preside over the funerals of priests and deacons whose pastoral charity and service to Christ and his Church have impacted the lives of so many.

I am thankful for each one of our 74 seminarians, as well as the 331 priests (active and retired), over 200 permanent deacons and the dozens of consecrated religious who have responded to God’s call to serve his people.

I am grateful, too, for the laity of the archdiocese who give witness to Jesus Christ in their families, parishes, neighborhoods and in the public square.

The Lord has also richly blessed the archdiocese with more than 40 lay apostolates that are helping form authentic disciples of Christ. Some of them, such as Catholic Charities, are making a tremendous impact on the local level, while others like the Augustine Institute, FOCUS and Endow are making an impact locally, nationally and internationally.

Finally, I am thankful for my parents who are now deceased, whose openness to life brought me into the world. I am also grateful for all the men and women who helped me grow in my spiritual life. Because of them I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I am able to hear God the Father call me his son, and I am able to receive the gifts that the Holy Spirit pours out upon me, including the priesthood and the episcopate.

This Thanksgiving, I ask you to look for ways that you can grow in a spirituality of thanks that acknowledges God’s gifts in your life and your family. Take some quiet time at Mass or during the week to thank the Father for all of the blessings you have. Even better, make a daily practice of recognizing the action of God in your life. If we cultivate the virtue of gratitude in our lives, then we will hear Jesus respond in our hearts as he did to the thankful leper, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila is the eighth bishop of Denver and its fifth archbishop. His episcopal motto is, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).

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