Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI
Reflection for Nov. 19, 2023

Reflection for Nov. 19, 2023

Justice and mercy

Readings show us the importance of serving God and others with what we have been given 

by Sister Ann Rehrauer

I spent this past week on retreat. Any time of the year is good for a longer period to reflect upon the blessings and challenges of the past year and to ponder where God is calling us on the next steps of our journey. But I have always appreciated a November retreat. The weather is colder and the winds more raucous – reminding me of how small I am in the midst of this giant cosmos we call creation. The assigned Scripture readings these days speak of the end time (personal and global), highlighting the purpose of everything and the fidelity of God who is ever with us. And as darkness continues to grow – it is a good time to rest in the Lord.

On this thirty-third Sunday, we stand in the week before the Church year ends with the solemnity of Christ the King and with reminders of how blessed we are, as we celebrate Thanksgiving Day.

Sunday's Scriptures are an interesting combination of reminders of gifts received and calls to accountability. The writer of Proverbs describes the blessing of a good wife who brings joy to her husband and security to her family. While some of the examples clearly extol what some consider feminine activities (not just spinning and cooking) – those same virtues are also present in single women and in men who love and care for others – selflessness, industriousness, reaching out to care for the poor. Despite personality and appearances – any person who fears the Lord who is to be praised.

The letter to the Thessalonians and the Gospel account in Matthew contain a different tone – highlighting the sense of responsibility for us to share what we have been given. St. Paul reminds us that we need not fear the “final accounting” when we live in the awareness of God’s call and respond to God’s loving presence.

I struggle a bit with the seeming harsh task master in the Gospel as an image of God. While the owner has a right to a just return on his investment, when he doesn’t receive it from the fearful servant, there seems to be no second chance for the man. Even the little he has is taken away. And yet, my experience is of a God of second chances - a merciful parent who loves equally the prodigal and the obedient child. Maybe the message is about “tough love” – but it seems pretty final.

I also find it hard to reconcile the sense of “reward” based on only our labor - since we know that salvation is not “earned” but rather is grace freely given by the One who loves us. Then I remember what Father Richard VerBust taught us so many years ago – that parables are like metaphors. There is one main message but no one-to-one correspondence in the details – so look for the lesson to be learned.

Perhaps for me (and for you) this week, the task is to further ponder the attributes of justice and mercy, both present in the God whom Jesus revealed to us. And in the midst of growing darkness of days – to continue to live in the light and give thanks for our many blessings.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving and end of the Church year.


Rev. William J. Jacobs, Jr.
11/17/2023 7:21 am

My Dear Sisters and friends,

Thanksgiving always reminds me of where this all started for you and for me. And that was in that beautiful set of buildings, the Church, the rectory, the convent and the beautiful school. I would enter the school as a poor farm boy - hungry for an education. Thanks to the wonderful nuns like Sister Florence, Sister Damian, and so many more, I was led through a wonderful education. By fourth grade, I knew I wanted to be a teacher someday, and a teacher and principal I would become for some 26 years. By eighth grade, I knew I wanted to be a Priest someday, thanks to the wonderful mentoring of Father J. W. DeVries, I knew by eighth grade that I wanted to be a Priest someday. His parting comment at graduation was, "William, you are going to make me proud someday." As I marched down the aisle for Ordination on June 28th, 2003, I knew I had made Father proud, but also many other Clergy and good Sisters who played such an important role in my preparation and journey. After over 36 years of teaching, serving as a principal; and now 26-plus years as a Priest and Pastor, I know I've made many people proud. I thank God, number one, as he led this poor farm boy through all the challenges of preparation and service in a variety of educational and religious services, I reflect on another Thanksgiving of how blest I was to be led by such a wonderful team of family members, an awesome team of Nuns, and many Clergy along the way. My theme has always been: "Dozens and dozens of folks led me to this, Dear Lord, please help me through this. As one of my Bishops always uttered: "Father Bill, you done good!!!" Dear Lord, "You also done good!" Amen, dear Sisters and Family. You also done good! A Humble & Grateful, Father Bill Jacobs!

Debra Haven
11/17/2023 11:58 am

Sr. Ann, thank you for your post retreat reflection on our great blessings and challenges of the past year. The challenges are raw in our minds. God's blessings are deep in our hearts.

I especially like your experience of second chances. It was my beloved grandfather who demonstrated God's mercy when I borrowed his car as a teenager and returned it with a fender bender. His only concern was that I wasn't injured. How wonderful to feel God's presence in a Grandfather's reaction.

With thanksgiving for your willingness to say "yes" to those of us seeking the Lord in our lives.

Mary Pierre
11/17/2023 3:32 pm

Enjoyed your comments, Sister. I was always bothered that the one who received one was the person I wanted in place of the one that got 5. Just a thought. I loved all of the comments added to yours.

Debbie A Tahany
11/18/2023 1:25 pm

Thanks Sr. Ann, and others who commented ahead of me. I share the struggle of the one person to whom God doesn't give a second chance too! In an unpredictable world, "one day at a time" leaves me with greater peace than trying to look at larger increments of time. Grateful for opportunities to begin again after I stumble in things great and small.

11/18/2023 1:40 pm

"entrusted his possessions to them." [Matt. 25:14] Sunday's gospel

Indigenous Peoples have long understood all of Earth, Water, Wind and Air as "gifts from Creator," not only for themselves, but for Seven Generations into the Future. With every new generation receiving these "gifts" with gratitude, honor, and praise, they, likewise, respect and preserve them with the vision of at least one hundred years more in mind.

Such a long-range vision lends itself to using only what is needed, so that sustainability for at least one hundred years into the future is practiced, while also meeting the current needs of the Peoples. As in, "Give us this day our daily bread," for each day's portion is enough for us, lest we become greedy and take more than we need, while others go without.

Jesus' very first words when he was asked by his listeners to 'pray' was, "Our Father." In opening to the Creator of All, we assent to a whole-hearted belief and accept, honor, and celebrate that Our Creator-God is origin of all, of all.

The Journey

When the earth is sick and dying,

There will come a tribe of people

From all races…

Who will put their faith in deeds,

Not words, and make the planet

Green again…

— Cree Prophecy

Ways to pray "thanksgiving" this year:

Iroquois Thanksgiving address:

Native American Prayers:

John Hansen
11/18/2023 4:14 pm

Beautiful words of reflection and encouragement.

Thank you for sharing.

11/20/2023 10:11 am

A lot to reflect on! Thanks.

Add Your Comment

This is not displayed anywhere publicly.

Weekly Reflections Email

Be notified every time a Weekly Reflection is added!

Sign Up Now

Newsletter Signup

Want to receive our Newsletter?

Sign Up Now