Giving Thanks – Pastor’s Reflection (August 13, 2017)
When you think of “prayer,” what comes to mind? I think for most of us prayer consists in asking: asking for help, asking for a favor, asking for forgiveness. We tend to start praying when we reach the borders of our self-sufficiency. I ask for help when I cannot do for myself. We never admit this, but that makes prayer vaguely uncomfortable, like having to ask a relative for a loan because I am overdrawn at the bank. How much more satisfying to look upon my possessions, my body, and even my relationships, and be able to say, “Look what I did.” But the truth of our efforts always runs up against the truth of limits and we are back to prayer, and we are still sheepish in God’s presence. I am praying because I have failed, or someone else has failed, or nature has failed me.
But take a second look; human nature is designed with limits. We live within boundaries of longevity and strength, understanding and communication. So we might ask whether the One who crafted our nature intended us to be uncomfortable within its confines. That Christ assumed this nature testifies to the contrary. His Gospel represents an invitation to embrace it, with all its limitations, as our way to God, and so the Scriptures and the Sacraments intimate a deep transformation of how we see our humanity and our prayer. In the light of faith we come to see our limits not as frustrations but as openings to the personal experience of God’s goodness.
Humanly we know this truth. When I fall in love I recognize someone who supplies for what I like, who complements my own real but limited gifts. God acts in Christ to widen this realization to include the whole of life. So He invites us to befriend the deepest truth of ourselves, and to do this by recognizing how much we have received that we could never have received by toil, ingenuity, or merit. This is not putting us in our place, but helping us see how privileged is our place from the very beginning.
So I ask you: how is your own life shaped by the truth of favor, for favor tells the truth of you and me. If we have received Christ in the Eucharist, then unqualified love has entered the very heart of us as a consolation and liberation, as a summons to change and a gift of understanding. When we “taste and see that the Lord is good,” we remember that Jesus made a banquet of his blood for us in the past, and that we savor it in the present moment as a real pledge of life beyond the limits that now define me.
This perspective grows each time we make a practice of gratitude. Here is the real conscious work of remembering and recognizing. When I set my mind to it I recognize that for all the time I spend with my problems, the deepest truth of me is gift. It has been good to live, and to live as myself. It has been good to share life with those confided to me, and with those to whom I have been confided. I also wonder what my very struggles with handicap and circumstance have taught me about the reality of life.
At the height of summer there is an opportunity for gratitude for the gifts at the foundation of our lives. Its practice will give us the wherewithal to keep growing through another winter.