Gratitude for Abundant Love

For the Lord’s word is true;
all his works are trustworthy.
The Lord loves justice and right
and fills the earth with goodness
(Psalm 33:4-5).

 I have so much to be grateful to God for these days. Of course, every day I am thankful for my family, our health, work that I love, and the many daily blessings I can count. Today, however, I’m speaking of the great and out of the ordinary, those gifts I was expecting and those God surprised me with in recent days.

Before I go on I’d like to congratulate our entire parish on the success of our parish festival. Although I meant to be back from my vacation in time, I was stranded for two days on the east coast by Hurricane Joaquin. I was sorry to miss that day, but you were all in my thoughts and prayers last Sunday as I made my way home. I have enjoyed hearing from so many of you about how you enjoyed the day. I hope to hear more! This is one of the expected gifts—this community continues to amaze me but I won’t say I’m surprised. For we are God’s coworkers; you are God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9).

 Recently, I spent a week in my hometown in Vermont. It was wonderful in countless ways, and bittersweet. God’s providence was so clearly at work that even the difficult moments were blessed in ways for which I couldn’t have prepared.

I was expecting to be grateful for the gift of God’s creation. I was unprepared to be left speechless so often that week. I grew up in the beautiful mountains and valleys of New England, true, but in the way of the young, I failed to appreciate it fully. I was fortunate to be there during peak foliage season and my brother, my godfather, and I made time in our busy week to do some hiking in the White Mountains of Vermont, which weren’t really white at all, but vibrant reds and yellows, bright oranges and greens. Surely only our God, the Infinite Creator of all that is good and wondrous, could be responsible for the like. I stood on the ridge of Mt. Flume and looked out over the valley toward Mt. Pisca and was absolutely struck dumb. I thanked God and stood in awe of the power of it and the depth of love for us that inspired it. The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder’s craft. One day to the next conveys that message; one night to the next imparts that knowledge (Psalm 19:2-3).

There were unexpected gifts to be grateful for, too. The trip was bittersweet because there was work to be done. Mom has been beyond this life for more than a year now and my brother and I needed to attend to all of my mother’s things. There is something so tragically sad that the things we accumulate that seem so incredibly vital to our lives are at the end disposable and perhaps even some are forgettable. My brother and I spent so much time laughing and remembering that it became a work of joy rather than sadness. There’s so much we miss about her, but God in his mercy reminded us over and over that because of her we have one another. I don’t really know how she did it, but she fostered in us a sincere joy in one another. The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent (Lamentations 3:22).

The people that God puts in my life are such blessings. In addition to my brother and my godfather my friends paused their own busy lives to help us sort, haul, package, donate, and store what seemed an endless stream of belongings. They brought food, an occasional bottle of wine, and their own memories of our mother that made a difficult task a celebration. Moses’ hands, however, grew tired; so they put a rock in place for him to sit on. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady until sunset (Exodus 17:12).

For Mass on October 18, the entrance antiphon is from a Psalm which has been a great consolation to me in difficult times. So often in the past, these verses have been for me the rock upon which I rested when I grew tired. I call upon you; answer me, O God. Turn your ear to me, hear my prayer. Show your wonderful love, you who deliver with your right arm those who seek refuge from their foes. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 17:6-8).

And so the gratitude seems inevitable. There’s appreciation for my blessings, yes, and for the beauty of God’s creation, and for the people in my life. Beyond all of that, however, is the deep gratitude for what is the unshakeable love of God and the power and providence that is showered on us all day by day without end.

 

 

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