Dear Brothers and Sisters,
St. Paul writes in Sacred Scripture: Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. (Col. 3: 12-15)
What is the ultimate way to give thanks to God? Holy Mass! The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all His benefits, for all that He has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all "thanksgiving." I can hardly wait until we can gather again around the Altar of Our Lord and give thanks to God together.
Our lives have been changed in dramatic ways in an instant. Normal and everyday routines seem like a distant memory. All the many things I took for granted… things like hanging out with friends and family, grocery shopping, going to work, my health and the health of others and going to Mass.
As I reflect on these past few weeks, God seems to be saying. "Are you still grateful? Can you identify the blessings when things are not as easy? We are separated in many ways and that is tragic and hurts my heart and makes it difficult to pray sometimes. Though there have been many graces in these days, I must say I have not always been able to give thanks.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian pediatrician from the 1950's, once said regarding gratitude that, "The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us in His goodness." What a beautiful thought but it can be much more difficult to live when things don't go our way. That is, I can become frustrated that I had so many opportunities to offer public masses, hear confessions, counsel people, do weddings and baptisms and go to the gym, shopping or school etcetera and now I cannot do those things. I took many things for granted and it seems like I am being forced to accept this "new normal" and I don't like it.
In times of difficulty, our faith invites us to call to mind the blessings that we can be thankful for today. Yes, there are so many things. I am grateful for my health like I've ever been before. I am grateful for medical workers. I am grateful for cashiers and truck drivers. I am grateful for scientists. I am grateful for such passionate followers of Jesus that normally populate our pews. I am grateful to my staff and our teachers who labor day in and day out to help others come to know the love of God. Even though I can't see my all my family as much as I like, I am grateful for my cell phone that allows me to talk with them. God is so good.
I've also noticed that God has moved all these thoughts and prayers of gratitude into actions. He has softened my heart during these crazy days. For example, I have reached out to people I know I should have called a long time ago. I have found myself more grateful for the workers who don't have a choice to work. I have reaching out more to those in need. I am reaching out to people who have been furloughed or even laid off in recent days. My point is NOT to pat myself on the back but to demonstrate the goodness of God and how I need to be reminded during this pandemic of all He does for me day in and day out, often without my gratitude.
Mother Teresa once said that gratitude to God is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy. Thank you Jesus. And help me to never forget to thank you.
Lastly, if you haven't yet signed up for online giving for our parish. Please do so here: https://saintbernadette.weshareonline.org. Your gifts are needed now more than ever so we can continue the mission of the Church of making more disciples. Thank you for all who have helped to keep our parish going.
Fr. Don Kline, V.F.