My Dear Parishioners,
Each of us has numerous reasons to be thankful for the abundance of God’s grace in our lives. It may be that we can be grateful for the new day in which to show God’s love to someone. We may give thanks for the food we eat, the beauty of a summer day or for our loved ones, both living and deceased.
Fostering an attitude of gratitude, however, can be a challenge in the midst of life’s problems and difficulties. Most of us also face a litany of burdens every day that can include illness, suffering, economic trouble, pain, addiction and loss, to name a few. Yet, we hear in today’s Scripture readings that we are not alone. God invites us to bring our burdens to him so that he can help ease our load.
In today’s first reading we hear of Job, who teaches us about gratitude in the face of difficulty. It is easy to stereotype Job as that poor guy in the Bible who lost everything. But there is more to the story of Job than his misery. Even though Job suffered the loss of family, property and health, God did not abandon him. In fact, even though Job had harbored doubts about his faith, he remained faithful to God, in spite of all that had happened to him. Job had seen the works of God in his own lifetime and heard of God’s wondrous deeds through various stories of faith in the lives of his Jewish ancestors. In today’s passage, God speaks directly to Job, and Job is reminded of God’s awesome power. How reassuring this must have been to Job, knowing that God, who created and controlled the seas, considered his miserable life to be important. Everything else had fallen away in Job’s life, except for God’s love. For Job, God had become the most important part of his life.
Another person who teachers us about being grateful for God’s blessings is Paul. A driving force in the life of Paul was his sense of gratitude for God’s gift of salvation, given through Jesus Christ. We know that Paul suffered many hardships for preaching the Gospel of Jesus. Yet, in spite of his life of suffering, Paul remained steadfast in his love of Christ. Today’s reading speaks of the fact that Christ died for all so that we could be reconciled to the Father. In Baptism we die in Christ to our old selves and become new creations in him. Paul says that our love for Christ can also drive each of us to do all things in and through Jesus Christ.
Finally, our gratitude can grow as we hear Jesus, himself, in today’s Gospel, assure us of his love and protection. It is true that life can, at times, be both terrifying and awesome. We are, in many ways, no different from those disciples who were in the boat with Jesus when the violent storm arose. Even though Jesus was with them, their instincts still took over, their adrenalin surged and they were overwhelmed with fear, Most of us this past year have experienced something akin to that with the pandemic. We lived in fear of the unknown and what was happening around us. What is important is not that the disciples were in fear, but that they called on Jesus in their time of need. Most likely we, too, in our fear, have called on Jesus. Maybe we realized how important prayer is. Like Job, doubts may plague our thoughts, but that does not mean that we will forget our trust in Jesus. No matter what happens, we can count on Jesus to see us through the storms of our lives. He is with us in times of great joy, as well as in times of sorrow. Our response is to be one of humble, loving trust and gratitude. We need only to recall the words of Jesus to overcome our fear: “DO NOT BE AFRAID”.
All God’s Blessings,
PS. This will be my last column until September. I pray that all of us have a restful summer. Find time to enjoy family, relax, pray and attend Church each weekend. Remember we have so much to be thankful to God for and attending Mass each weekend and receiving the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion is the best way to show our gratitude. Stay healthy and be safe!