Friday, November 23, 2012
Quiet Thoughts on Thanksgiving
Our entire body, then, will be preserved in Christ Jesus, and each of us should be subject to his neighbor in accordance with the grace given to each. The stronger should care for the weak, and the weak should respect the stronger. The wealthy should give to the poor, and the poor man should thank God that he has sent him someone to supply his needs. The wise should manifest their wisdom not in words but in good deeds, and the humble should not talk about their own humility but allow others to bear witness to it. Since, therefore, we have all this from him, we ought to thank him for it all. Glory to him for ever. Amen.
---- From a letter to the Corinthians, by Saint Clement, pope.
The above words were part of the Readings for this day, and a great reminder to me (the bold points are things underlined in my prayer book). St. Clement first points out that grace is given to us, a gift --- not earned, not “my right,” and not given to everyone in the same way or the same amount, but “in accordance” with what we need. And with this grace we are able to do (if we follow this grace) what we were made to do, to be as we are created to be. Some of us have a body which can be strong, some have talents and drive to enable them to be rich, and some have depth of thinking to enable them to be wise. And with the gift of who he is, a man should, according to Clement, be subject to his neighbor. These gifts we are given are not meant for us alone, to keep, to hoard, but to be given to our neighbor. This is following the commandment to “Love your neighbor, as yourself.” This is imitating God, whose image we are made in. This is being who we were created to be, God’s presence here on earth. And for all this, this ability to receive grace, to be all we were created to be, and to love as He loved us, we ought to thank him.
As I read them, I thought those were great words from Saint Clement, whose feast day is celebrated today in the Catholic Church. Clement was the third pope to rule the Roman Catholic Church after Peter. Like Peter, he was martyred for his belief in Jesus. In his letter he showed how he was using the grace and talents given to him, witnessing his faith --- even when it meant his death. But the conclusion of his letter, like the conclusion of his life, was the most important statement: “we have all this from him; we ought to thank him for it all.” That’s what a real leader does: he leads, as he encouraged all his flock to use their gifts accordingly. Jesus gave us the parable of the Good Shepherd; I see that in Clement.
While mom still sleeps this early morning, I quickly drove to my house, picking up the paper from the driveway and grabbing a coffee at the local shop. I listened with pleasure to Christmas music on the radio, much of it singing of Peace on Earth. It had rained last night and the streets were wet, the early morning sky full of bulbous, fast moving clouds, but off to the East the sun peeked through the horizon, casting a rainbow of colors across the darkness. Life felt good, and I gave thanks.
This morning, in the quiet of mom’s house, I read a blog I follow. The woman has many a worry in her life, but this morning I read how all her pains and worries seemed to be on hold. She felt at peace, and she wrote of her feelings, and directly and indirectly, her thanks. I thought: I wish I could read more words like that. (I wonder if God feels the same way.) If you occasionally read the nonsense I write here, you know that I don’t give thanks for MY blessings nearly enough, thanks for just my Being, for being who I am, and the graces I receive to help me be the best I can. The grace and joy of being who we were created to be, it is a wonderful feeling.
My 94-year old mom, the beautiful sky, a friend home from the hospital, your marriage, your kids, your dog (who listens sometimes), and for our health (even if only on some days), we have so many things to be thankful for. As I watch the birds going in and out of the feeder on the window in front of me, first two than six then four, the flock sitting on the bush below, all taking turns at getting some seed. The seed’s a blessing I give them, from my blessings, and they seem to accept it and be content. I don’t know if birds have the capability of giving thanks, but their contentment seems to be thanks, in a way. Certainly they have more uncertainties in their lives than I have in mine, yet they can be content.
Despite all that’s happening in the world – or in our little world, if we could only really realize all that’s been given us, we could be content also.
I’m reminded of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, with Jimmy Stewart (perhaps it may even be on television today). Often shown at Christmas time, it depicts a man who is so sad that he wishes he were never born --- and then God grants him the grace to see what the world would be like if he HAD not been born. And the world would be a much worse place, and the people he cares about would have a much worse life --- some would have died, and some would never have been born. And in the end he understands, and despite all his woes and sorrows he realizes that his life is a blessing, and he exclaims loudly: “I want to live!” In a very real way, his words were ones of thanks to God: I want to live.
May we all want to live the lives God has blessed us to have, and to be as he created us to be. And whatever that life might be, to give thanks. Let us not forget to give thanks.