Thanksgiving message

Friday, Nov. 22, 2013
Thanksgiving message + Enlarge
By The Most Rev. John C. Wester
Bishop of Salt Lake City

As a Stewardship Diocese, Thanksgiving has special meaning for us in the Diocese of Salt Lake City. We have been reflecting long and hard on the need to finely hone our sense of gratitude for God’s innumerable gifts. This "honing" is a life-long process that involves our ability to see beneath the surface of things; in fact, to go beyond "things" altogether as we become more keenly aware of the giver of the gift, who, if we delve deep enough, is always God, whose love knows no bounds and who will never be outdone in generosity.

A good metaphor for this ability to see beyond the gift is O. Henry’s short story The Gift of the Magi. You will remember how Jim and Della, a poor couple living in a modest flat, each made money by selling the one prize possession they had in order to buy each other a Christmas gift. For Della, it was her beautiful long hair, and for Jim, a priceless watch that had belonged to his father and grandfather. Jim used the money to buy his wife a set of combs, now useless since Della’s haircut, and Della used her money to buy Jim a watch fob, now equally useless. However, they each received a far greater gift as they instantly realized just how far they would go to express their love for each other. The real gift was each other. They had the wonderful experience, in this moment of cosmic irony, of seeing beyond things and into each other’s loving eyes.

That is the goal of Thanksgiving. We gather with loved ones to remember that the truly great gift is never material things, but relationships. Love is the ultimate gift and, as St. John reminds us, God is love. No wonder Jesus was so admiring of the one leper out of ten who returned to give thanks. It was only natural that the other nine were caught up in their cure, freed from a horrible disease that made them pariahs in their own families and communities. But that one man saw beyond the gift of healing, even as wonderful as it was, so he returned to express his gratitude to the giver of the gift. Of course, in so doing, he received an even greater gift: the gift of faith, the gift that gave him the possibility of a relationship with Christ, the savior of the world!

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year and as we conclude the Year of Faith, I encourage us all to thank God for his wonderful gifts in our lives. And in so doing, to peel back the veil and realize that material gifts pale in comparison to God’s love, a love that guarantees us the gift of eternal life. Thank God for our faith, a gift that allows us, like the thankful man cured of leprosy, to enter more deeply into our relationship with Christ, a relationship of thanksgiving that is meant to last an eternity.

It is natural for children to get absorbed in their gifts as they tear away the wrappings and spend the day playing with their new treasures. Even though we know better as adults, we also can get absorbed in our "treasures," our material goods, and forget the giver of the gift. This Thanksgiving is a good time to stop and remember that God is the real gift, as are those loved ones who reflect his image to us. God is love, and the more time we spend with God and our loved ones, the more we will make of our time.

As you gather with family and friends around your Thanksgiving table or wherever you happen to be, I pray that you will have many opportunities to express your gratitude for the gift of love in your life, a love that renders all other gifts useless and leaves us speechless, except to say, "thank you!" Let that be our refrain this Thanksgiving and allow me to thank each and every one of you in this wonderful diocese for being such a vital, loving and faith-filled community. May God bless your Thanksgiving tables abundantly.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+The Most Rev. John C. Wester

Bishop of Salt Lake City

For questions, comments or to report inaccuracies on the website, please CLICK HERE.
© Copyright 2020 The Diocese of Salt Lake City. All rights reserved.