Bishop Noonan’s Column: Thanksgiving

He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.

Col 1:17,18


My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The month of November connotes a time of thanksgiving.  We begin the month with the celebrations of the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed.  We rejoice in God our Savior for the gift of the many men and women who have been an example of faith for us and who, by their courage to live their faith, have proffered a world in which we are also able to live our faith.

While the Church reminds us of the importance of staying focused on God, our world is ever willing to entice us to consider other things in which to occupy our time, talent and treasure.

In the early days of Christianity as it was spreading throughout Asia Minor, our friends the Colossians also had distractions in keeping their focus on matters of importance.  On Sunday,  November 12, St. Paul’s proclamation to the Colossians reminds us to remember who we are and the treasure given to us through God.  He says it all starts with thanksgiving: “Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.  He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:12-14).”

St. Paul speaks with great relevance to us as we live in the most technologically advanced age of all time.  As the Colossians were encouraged by St. Paul to keep God at the center of their daily living, so we must not fall into the difficulty of believing in ourselves and our ability to solve our problems apart from God as He is revealed in Scripture.

We heed St. Paul’s words, “In him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:16).

Because we are created through Him and for Him, we have a great responsibility to bear witness to God in all that we are, in all that we do, 24,7, 365.  We endeavor to build His heavenly Kingdom on earth in thanksgiving for all we have received from God.

November is more than remembering our roots as Americans and the journey of the fortitude of the pilgrims to begin life in a new world.  They did not tout their own worth as the reason for their arrival or their ability to live on this land.  They were quick to remember from Whom their success, small or large, came and gave thanks to God.

Our gratitude cannot be contained and spills forth among all the people.  This month, we have the opportunity to thank two different groups of people who have helped us remain steadfast in our faith, whose own selflessness is a saintly example of how ought to live.  The first group is our retired priests who continue to offer the gift of their ministry on our behalf through Christ our Lord.   They have served long and have not given up their service because of retirement.  We pray in gratitude for their graciousness unto the Lord as they continue to care for our souls.  The second group is comprised of the priests who serve for the Archdiocese of the Military.  They have dedicated their lives to serving as chaplains to our military and have brought the faith to many on the field, even to the point of their own death.  Pray in thanksgiving for them.  Your discipleship may lead you to also donate on their behalf for the annual collection.

There are many who go hungry at night because there isn’t enough food.  November is a time to offer in gratitude your own table dressings for those who are in need.  There are four concerts benefitting Catholic Charities of Central Florida, Brevard Promise, and Catholic Community Television Network.  Purchase a ticket or make a donation to any of these organizations.  Pray for the community of faith as they are served by the ministries of these organizations.

Pope Francis says the fruit of our offering of thanksgiving is peace.  “Jesus made peace for us and reconciled us.”  Our task is to be men and women of peace, men and women of reconciliation.  St. Paul said, “For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.”

During this month of November, by our offering of thanksgiving of all that is given to us, may we become instruments of His Peace.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend John Noonan
Bishop of Orlando