With Thanksgiving upon us and Advent quickly approaching, I want to offer a few thoughts on something that affects everyone in one way or another: dealing with a loss.
By Bishop Richard F. Stika
I recently had the great with a number of remarkable individuals who know what it means to suffer intense loss. I was asked to take part in an “Honor Flight” that brought together a group of 135 veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam on a roundtrip journey from Knoxville to Washington, D.C., to visit the war memorials.
It was an extremely moving experience to be in their midst and to witness the outpouring of love, thanksgiving and honor given to these humble veterans who have given so much for our country.
How do we handle the great losses in our lives? My advice: keep giving. To give hope, to extend mercy, to give loving support and, with the grace of God, to give thanks, trusting that He will bring good out of your sorrow and restore joy and peace to your soul. It is in the very act of giving that we receive the special graces we need to keep going, to be faithful to our calling, to persevere to the end.
A loss can come in a variety of forms: the loss of a loved one, a betrayal in one’s marriage, the loss of a job, one’s home or business, loss of health or hope or the loss of a perfect opportunity that we let pass by. It could be the loss of a good reputation, or the confidence others had in us — or we in them. We also can think of the overwhelming loss that we, as a nation and as humanity as a whole, have experienced due to the tragedies of abortion, war, terrorism, immorality, etc.
We can’t change yesterday. We just learn from mistakes and celebrate the victories. We can’t worry about tomorrow, as we really don’t know what it will hold. All we have is the present, with Jesus, who wants us to trust Him and that whatever we surrender to Him, He will heal, transform and bring to new life. When we give Him our sins, when we surrender our resentments and bitterness, our self-centeredness and pride to Him, this is a victory! When we reach out in love and compassion to those who are hurting, while we ourselves are in pain, this is how we help to support and build, to renew and heal our troubled hearts and our troubled world.
St. Paul reminds us, “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” That strength comes to us through the Eucharist and through adoration. Spend time with our Eucharistic Lord, praying especially for the suffering Church and for all those suffering around us. My further advice is to stay close to Our Lady and to live each day as if it could be your last. Love and respect one another and treasure those who are your family and friends. Thank God for each day, for it is indeed His gift to us.
November is a month when we remember those who have given us so much. We remember the communion of all saints, our deceased loved ones, and our country’s veterans. It’s a time to recall how thankful we should be for all the blessings we have received, as a nation and individually, and how much we are in need of God’s mercy because of our sins and neglects. Let us pray together “in humble penitence for the healing of our nation,” as Abraham Lincoln encouraged in his 1863 proclamation officially calling for a day of Thanksgiving each November.
Whenever you feel the pain of loss, the empty place at the table, remember the presence of the One who is the silent listener to every conversation – the One who is our victorious, universal King. To Him, above all, let us give thanks and open our hearts to receive all that He has to give.
For every blessing we have ever received: Lord, we thank you and praise you.
For our disobedience and failure to keep your commands: Lord Jesus, have mercy on us sinners.
For our government leaders and politicians: Lord, grant them wisdom and light.
For our military men and women and police in harm’s way: Jesus, protect them and give them courage in the fight.
For our police officers and military killed in the line of duty: Grant them eternal rest, O Lord.
For an end to the violence and disunity tearing our nation apart: Lord, hear our prayer.
For all who long for peace, justice and true freedom in our land: Jesus, hear us.
For the graces we need to become the saints we are called to be: Jesus, graciously hear us.