I remember years ago, when I was still in seminary, we had a celebration to which the late Bishop McGill was invited – it was either lectorate or acolytate. He spoke to us at the meal we had after Holy Mass and I remember him telling us how he always thanked God for everything. He said, however, that he had forgotten to thank God for the electric iron, and therefore made a point of doing it. It’s strange the things that stick in your mind…
As I was celebrating Holy Mass this morning, and of course reflecting over the past wee while, that whole concept of thanksgiving, gratitude, and appreciation was uppermost in my mind. The Mass today, as you will know, was for the Solemnity of the Annunciation, recalling the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to Our Blessed Lady, her “fiat” to God’s will, and the mystery of the Incarnation – the mystery of God becoming one of us and sharing our human condition: joys and sufferings.
How can we not be grateful, and most especially at a time like this, that we have a God who knows what it is to experience and participate in human life, who knows exactly what we’re going through? How can we not be grateful to have our Catholic Faith and the consolation that it gives of knowing that we are held in the palm of God’s hand and that we have not been abandoned even if many things have changed for us?
Personally, I thanked God this morning for being a priest, and for being privileged to be able to offer the Holy Sacrifice for all those who are unable to attend, knowing that despite being alone in the Church (at least in terms of human company) I am participating in something much greater, and am privileged to be able to keep accessing on behalf of the faithful in my parish (and beyond) the wellspring of graces through these Sacred Mysteries. I felt privileged, and yet sad to know that I can still receive Our Lord in Holy Communion, knowing that many who desire Him at this time cannot – and that is a heart-breaking thought.
God is good, and God, if we are listening to Him in prayer, is teaching us much in these times – lessons which I hope will penetrate and take firm root in our hearts. How much we have to be grateful for, and not least our holy Faith, the Sacraments, the Church, and each other who form, in union with Jesus Christ, His Mystical Body? What perhaps I have taken for granted, or become so accustomed to, the ability to offer Holy Mass and the Sacraments, the material things that I have, my food and drink, my shelter and clothing, my loved ones, family and parishioners, all of these things suddenly become more important and much more appreciated than ever before. This, I think, is part of the conversion that can take place in our hearts at this time, this time of imposed silence and stillness. The conversion of appreciation and gratitude and conscious thanksgiving to God…
Even having been to the supermarket the other week this hit home to me… We are startled by empty shelves, and by the inconvenience of not being able to buy what we would like when we would like, but isn’t this the reality for probably most of the world’s population? We live surrounded by luxury, relatively speaking, when many in the world are perpetually surrounded by poverty and lack – maybe it takes what we’re going through now to get our own situation, our normal situation, into perspective and to realise just how blessed and privileged we are, and often how ungrateful (I speak for myself).
My relationship with God is the thing I have to be most grateful for, because this sustains me, this gives me hope and joy, and this means that I do not feel alone even when I am by myself. God’s love is precious, and there are no closed doors and no degree of isolation that can ever make that distant from us, He is near, He is very near, He is nearer than anyone else can be – and this is because of what we celebrate today: the Annunciation, the Incarnation, the reality of Him becoming one of us, like us in all things but sin. He came close to us through the mediation of Our Blessed Mother, and Her response in faith. I would suggest, then, that by drawing close to Her in this time, especially, through the prayers of the Rosary we will be able to unite ourselves to Her great act of gratitude and appreciation, her “Magnificat”, and that She will make Jesus’ presence a more tangible reality in our lives.
God bless you and keep you,