Saturday, October 27, 2012



As part of my post-Communion prayer and meditation today, I was trying to enumerate all the things for which I am grateful. Of course, the list is way too long for any of us to possibly enumerate. We tend, though, to start, and maybe end, our lists, with the obvious things and often, though not necessarily, the material things:

Our families

Our freedom

Having been (most of us) born in America during peace time

Our homes

Our education

Our friends

Our church and our faith

Our health

Our pets

Our cars

The great food we in this country eat daily as a matter of course

The beauty of the season…

Again, the list is too long to enumerate.

It occurred to me, as I tried to scratch the surface of the list, that the thing for which I ought to, and I think and hope I am, be most grateful is the presence of God in my life, that God wants to be and is my friend, my Father, my protector, my Creator, and my Savior and that He will never leave me. Perhaps a time will come when we will not feel all that grateful, and for good reason. That time has doubtless come for many of you; terrible things happen, friends and family leave us, we lose our jobs, our money, our standing in the community. But God is our constant; He never leaves us and, while He doesn’t promise us that life will be good or easy, He does promise that He will be with us for it.

Then something else occurred to me: the thing for which I should be most grateful, the presence of God, is something EVERYONE has. Some people reject His presence, but, even in those cases, He is never far from them and they can once again be in His presence for the mere asking. So EVERYONE, rich and poor, good and bad, hard working and lazy, good looking and not so good looking…EVERYONE…has the most important thing in life.

I don’t know about you, but this is not entirely a happy thought. People, including yours truly, work hard (or, perhaps in my case, perhaps we ought to just leave it at work) to achieve things. Material things, of course, but also friends and family, education, etc., if we think about it, require work and effort, hence forth the old adage, for instance, that to have a friend you have to be a friend. The work we do, especially in the case of our families and friends, is often, in most cases almost always, not unpleasant, indeed it is usually rewarding and fun. But for many of us the work we do to obtain the material things, and often the work we do to be a better friend, spouse, or parent, can be difficult, strenuous, exhausting, tedious, dispiriting, and/or something we would just rather not do. Yet we do whatever is necessary to achieve the things we, and the people we love, need and want…and harbor a very understandable resentment of those who don’t.

But the thing we most need, the most important thing in our lives, the presence, the Fatherhood, the friendship, the comfort of God, requires NO efforts; it is always there for us…and anyone, even those we consider not all that worthy, have it, or at least have ready access to it. If this isn’t somehow troubling to us, there are at least two possible reasons.

First, we haven’t grasped, or haven’t bought into the idea that God’s presence is indeed the most important thing in your lives and everything else, by comparison, is either ephemeral or, like our families, derive their value because they are manifestations of God’s love for us and our love for Him. This probably describes most of us, including yours truly. We may intellectually understand the preeminence of God and His presence, but haven’t fully accepted it.

Second, we have truly achieved that level of selflessness that should be the aim of our lives, the thing that God most wants us to achieve, and, therefore, that other people can have what we most treasure for the mere asking does not bother us. This condition does not describe most of us, including yours truly, and St. Paul, who says (Romans, 3:23):

“For all have sinned and fall short of he glory of God.”

In a sense, this having fallen short is a human condition that we can strive to, but probably never will, overcome in this life. This is perhaps a good thing, yet another gift from God for which to be grateful. It’s pretty frightening to imagine a world in which we all realized, and internalized, the paramount importance of the free gift of God’s grace, were perfectly fine with EVERYONE having access to that gift, and acted accordingly in our material affairs. One does not have to a fervent believer in free markets to imagine the impact such an attitude would have on the world’s living standards! But that is perhaps grist for a discussion of the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew, 20:1-16).

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