Thanksgiving is a time of year that finds us coming home to our families to celebrate our many blessings in life. It should also be a time when we think of families who are struggling financially, physically and spiritually.
This year more than ever, we must stand in solidarity with families whose hearts have been broken by loss. In particular, our hearts break over those who are suffering because of natural disasters in California and Florida and horrific tragedies in Pittsburgh and Parkland.
Our hearts break for parents who sit at a Thanksgiving table with empty seats because of the epidemic of gun violence that continues in our nation. They break for families on the border, with no table to sit at this Thanksgiving. They break for refugees fleeing war, famine, and genocide around the world. Our hearts break for the poor in our own county, for the homeless, for the unemployed, and for anyone who has suffered a loss. Our hearts break, too, for those who were sexually abused and those who have been forced to relive that trauma because of the failures and even sins of some in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
How do you heal a broken heart? It is a question that haunts me in the silent hours of the night at a time when we wrestle with daily reports of suffering that have become the staple of our news. It is a question that no disciple of the Lord can avoid asking, since it was to heal broken hearts that Jesus came among us.
This Thanksgiving we must ask ourselves how can we, as witnesses to such pervasive human suffering, avoid becoming callous or indifferent to the needs of those around us? As we give thanks to God for our blessings, we must also ask how can we use the blessings we have received for the benefit of others, particularly to bring healing and reconciliation in our families, communities and nation?
The great challenge before us, in a world marred by suffering and turmoil is to learn to stand with our brothers and sisters in need, side by side, one person at a time. Mother Teresa, who was no stranger to human deprivation and abject suffering, once said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”
We, as Catholics, believe Christ is the Divine Physician who can truly heal us with His love. God’s loving mercy, offered to every human heart, can enlighten our minds, comfort us in our doubts, give consolation in our suffering and forgive the burden of our sins. Unlocking the power of divine mercy can transform us into physicians who can heal the broken-hearted.
This process of healing begins by rejecting a world that wants us to see the poor as a problem to be solved, that views the marginalized as mere statistics, and that trivializes each human suffering as nothing more than a news headline that will pass with time.
Healing begins with advocating for those on the margins in a personal way, and seeking to reform the systems and culture that marginalize them. It means truly knowing, naming, and loving each and every person suffering in our midst, accompanying them as we hope they will accompany us in our time of need. It means standing for those who are vulnerable and working to create a culture of life in this flawed world.
As we gather around our Thanksgiving dinner tables with our families, friends and loved ones, let us remember the many blessings we have received. Let us not forget the hardships that we have endured both personally and as a nation. Most of all, let us work diligently and hopefully to heal the broken-hearted because it is in this work that we can celebrate our shared humanity.
The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano was named bishop of Bridgeport by Pope Francis in 2013. You can read his reflections on Facebook: Bishop Frank J. Caggiano or follow him on Twitter @BishopCaggiano, or Instagram @BishopFrankCaggiano.