Each year as our nation celebrates the civic holiday of Thanksgiving Day, the Church draws our attention to the end of time, when Christ will return in glory to judge the living and the dead. It’s hard to be thankful for being judged. What makes the last judgment something to be longed for is, first of all, the knowledge that the judge will be Jesus himself. He wants our eternal happiness far more than we do. He died for it. Secondly, anticipation of the end of time enables us to put in better perspective the significance of all that comes to us and that we ourselves do in time. There is much that comes to us and much also that we ourselves do for which to be grateful: the love of family and friends, a successful exam, a job that gives economic security, good health. It seems harder to be thankful for the loss of friends or family, for failure, for economic and political insecurity, for sickness and death itself. Crises such as these fill the prayer cards that come to me each November. I am always edified by the spirit in which requests for God’s help are made. We can be grateful for both the good things and the bad, the happy experiences and the sad events when our faith is strong enough to allow us to see that everything is gift. Not only what happens in our time comes from God, but time itself and life itself are his gift. Recognizing that none of us is selfmade and unwilling to declare ourselves a cosmic accident, we turn to the Author of all that is and say thanks. In the face of a gift that cannot be matched in return, all one can do is be grateful. Thanksgiving Day continues to be a day of prayer to God, along with family and civic celebration. At the end of each celebration of the Holy Eucharist (a Greek word that means thanksgiving), we say “Thanks be to God.” Gratitude to God shapes our lives, at their beginning and their end. Each moment is a gift; each event unfolds under God’s loving Providence. Last week, the U.S. bishops met in Baltimore and addressed a number of issues of some importance at this time. First of all, it was time to elect new officers; and I was elected president of the Conference. I am grateful not only to my brother bishops who elected me but also to all those who have expressed their congratulations. Someone commented that I didn’t need any more grief, but I don’t think giving me grief was the intention of the bishops in electing me. Whether or not the position gives much grief is something we’ll find out in the next three years. The bishops have taken some grief because we passed a document that addresses the moral issues involved in making political choices at this time. Every four years, a year before the national elections, the U.S. bishops have issued a document titled “Faithful Citizenship.” The document is not a voters’ guide in the usual sense. Rather, it sets out the hierarchy of political issues that are also moral issues, and judges each in the light of Catholic moral and social teaching. This year, the document also sets out the principles that Catholics should use in forming their consciences as they prepare to vote. If voting is a free action, then it has moral content: It can be morally right or morally wrong. We would say, for example, that the many Germans who voted to elect Adolf Hitler to the German parliament over 70 years ago made both a political mistake and a morally wrong choice. Of course, it’s always easier to judge in retrospect the full moral significance of any act. Nonetheless, how we vote at this time takes its place alongside how we work and how we love and how we worship as an action that has eternal consequences. Any free act will be placed before Christ when he returns to judge the living and the dead. We should therefore form our consciences deliberately and in a morally informed way before voting. All this seems rather obvious to anyone with a sense of the Catholic faith, but some now take exception to the bishops’ saying anything at all by way of moral instruction. When “Faithful Citizenship” is published, I hope it will be read and found useful. How do we give thanks when we’re given grief? By seeing everything in the perspective of the last judgment and by placing it now into the celebration of the Eucharist, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. A faithful person can remain always thankful because he or she is never totally absorbed into the experience of the present moment, whether the moment is happy or sad. Life is always more than our immediate present, because we are made in the image and likeness of the eternal God. God, whose life is made available to us through and with and in Jesus Christ, draws us into a love that is everlasting. Everything else passes. And that’s the fundamental reason to be grateful on Thanksgiving Day and every other. God bless you all.