Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The other day, I was on the phone to a good friend ‘Jim’ who is a retired priest living in Oakland. In pre-pandemic time, I tried to visit him every other year. I met him the year that I lived down there. He is so funny, gifted, forward thinking and very kind. However, he cannot drive! One day, he decided to take me and other priest to a nice restaurant down the California Coast. Heavy duty highways, traffic…. pointing at this and at that… while myself and the other priests sat there in fear. When we finally arrived at the restaurant, and found a parking spot, Jim jumped out of the car and made his way in… while we were still trying to get out of the car. When we went in, he asked, “what took you too so long? I said, “we were saying a prayer of gratitude to God for getting us here safely.” His response, “That’ great!!
St. Paul keeps thanking God. In the 2 Reading for today, we hear him praying Gratitude. It is easy to pray words of gratitude when we find a parking place or arriving safely to our destination? Or when someone gives us a gift…be it something really personal and special… like the two year old who shares a soggy Cherrio from her cereal bowl? But what about fraternal correction? Or when someone makes a suggestion for us to change our way of thinking or doing things to help the greater community? Can we show gratitude for these gifts as well? Yes, gratitude is can be difficult for modern society. In North America, they say that the average person sees themselves as a completely autonomous individuals… that we see ourselves as entitled to good health, a nice job, a happy family, a rich and powerful nation to maintain and defend these entitlements.
As well, the average person believes that he can take care of himself, is not in need of charity, can choose or reject any relationship that is or is not useful. If we are self-made and self-contained, what is there to be grateful for? And to whom? That is untrue, of course. No one is autonomous. We get life from parents, jobs from industry, food and clothes from stores, happiness from human experiences and love from someone else all rooted in God. St. Ignatius of Loyola reminds us that, “All things in this world are gifts from God, created for us, to know, to love and to serve God more faithfully.”
What are we grateful for? Myself, I am grateful first and foremost to God… for the countless blessing I have received in life thus far. I am grateful for family, friends, for HSP and you her people; I am grateful for where I live, for my freedom and for my health. I am grateful for the arrival of a new baby to very close friends this past week. I am grateful to have been asked to preside at the funeral of a very good friend who died this past week.
Even though thanksgiving was last week, I want us to think about our life and ask ourselves, ‘what are some good things that we are grateful for?’ If you cannot think of any, what about these: for those who are an important part of our lives, or for our faith and the ability to practice our faith publicly? The Eucharist (Greek for ‘Thanksgiving’) is our greatest prayer of gratitude. Or for all our front-line workers, and essential workers; those who risk their own safety to care for the rest of us? Then say a prayer of gratitude to God for them.
No doubt this has been one, of the toughest years in a long time… for everyone. But this too will pass… yes, we cannot do everything that we want right now, however, we will discover a vaccine for covid. In the meantime let us continue to look to God, as St. Paul did… being grateful to the Holy Spirit who blesses us with every great and wonderful gift. Amen.