By Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III | Published July 9, 2020 | En Español
My 96-year-old father lives at the family home in northern Virginia with my sister, Anne. On most days, they venture out of the home in the car to pray the rosary, parking at a spot looking out over the Potomac River. Due to the pandemic, my father has had to forego his usual weekly exercise at the bowling alley and now resigns himself to walking up and down the driveway of his home.
For many seniors experiencing restrictions like my father, this past Fourth of July was noticeably somber and less joyful, especially for him without the national pastime, baseball.
In contrast to focusing on what we may be missing out on or plaguing this nation during a pandemic, I propose we dedicate ourselves to giving greater thanks and deepening our understanding of freedom.
K. Chesterton wrote: “The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.”
Does not the biblical account of the cure of the ten lepers challenge us to look at thanksgiving during a pandemic in a more conscientious light? (Lk 17:11-19) When the lepers were cured and the quarantine from leprosy lifted, only one of them returned to give thanks. Jesus asked: “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” There should be no lessening of our gratitude as we deal with the restrictions to our way of life.
An example of promoting appreciation and thanksgiving for the gifts that God has bestowed on a nation comes from President Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln was forward thinking towards a future full of promise and a new birth of freedom for a nation. He declared the final Thursday of November a day of Thanksgiving during the time of civil war that was raging and plaguing a nation coming to grips with the issues of rights and equality.
We should not waver in showing appreciation for the sacrifices made by millions who care for the sick, conduct research for a vaccine, work in our grocery stores and provide other essential services. We should give thanks for our public officials and those who protect us as in law enforcement or serve in the military while reforms are being considered. I personally give special thanks to our clergy and the staffs of our parishes, those who work in our Chancery and the many who work and volunteer at Catholic Charities Atlanta.
Yet, above all, every one of us should give thanks to God for the gift of freedom. “Christ set us free for freedom.” (Gal 5:1) FREEDOM—not a license to do what one pleases but a liberation from sin and a responsibility to love without measure. Let us live this freedom and “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thes 5:16-18)