A Bishop's Perspective Bishop Burns

Giving thanks by giving generously

November 24, 2013
A BISHOP’S PERSPECTIVE in the Juneau Empire

Burns jpeg for web

There are a number of different ways we can give thanks to someone. It can take shape by simply saying the words “thank-you”, sending an email, calling someone on the phone, or, a special treat for the receiver, sitting down and writing a thank you note. Everyone has a way in which they say thanks. At least, we recognize that the act of expressing thanks is an important part of our interactions with others. I am reassured of this when I see parents instinctively say to their children, “Now what do you say?”, especially when there has been a lapse of time after receiving something. Many times it’s then that the child will look to the other and say, “Thank you”.

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this coming week, I am mindful of the Gospel passage we read during our Thanksgiving Mass in which Jesus heals ten lepers and asks that they show themselves to the priests. On their way one of the cured lepers recognized he had been healed. He turned back and Scripture says he “returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” (Lk 17:11-19)

This past week I sat next to a young man on a flight from Ketchikan to Sitka and he shared with me how blessed he has been in his life and in his work. In the conversation he acknowledged that the Lord had blessed him in so many different ways. He told me that his way of giving thanks was through doing more for others especially for those people who were in need. It gladdened my heart to learn that his acts of kindness and generosity were in response to his many blessings. He gave thanks by giving back to God’s children in need.

Personally, I am guilty of taking a lot for granted. Many of us can take for granted the gift of life, the health we have, or the possession of all the conveniences one could ever ask for in daily living. But when I see scenes of suffering and tragedy, like those from the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, I remember with gratitude how much I have and how much I have to share with those in need. Many of us have seen the scenes of loved ones looking for relatives who are missing as well as those who mourn their beloved dead. This natural disaster has wiped out communities and has left countless people homeless.

Just the other day I was speaking to a woman here in Juneau who has a house in the Philippines which is now filled with relatives who have lost their homes. I am mindful of the large Filipino community here in Southeast Alaska who are working in solidarity with their family, friends and countrymen. As a global community I believe we have an important part to play in helping our brothers and sisters. In light of this, I asked that a second collection be taken at all Catholic parishes and missions in Southeast Alaska last weekend for the efforts to help restore what was destroyed and damage by this typhoon. By doing so, it is our hope to assist them in rebuilding their communities. The funds that come from our second collection will be sent to Catholic Relief Services, a well established organization within the Catholic Church which has deep roots in the Philippines and the infrastructure to help people in need.

Like the young man on the plane, if you recognize that you have been so blessed that you are compelled to offer thanks by giving generously to others, please consider giving to those who are affected by this typhoon. If you’re looking for a means to do so, I’m confident in my recommendation of donating to Catholic Relief Services, which helps everyone in need regardless of faith, creed or nationality. You can donate online at www.CRS.org or send a check to their office which is located at: Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21297-0303. You may also call: 1-877-435-7277. Or, you can make a donation at any of our parishes with the instruction that it is for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to pause, count our blessings, and give thanks. While we may take many things for granted day in and day out, it’s good to know that our country sets aside one day when we can reflect on our blessings with gratitude and appreciation. One opportunity to give thanks is by giving generously to those who are in need.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.

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