I am writing these brief reflections on the eve of Sept. 1. Even though the season of fall does not begin until Sept. 22, the passing of August into September marks a time of passing in the “seasons of our lives” and certainly in our ministry, as parish ministries of education, liturgy, music and other areas of our lives begin in full swing again. The “ember” months which now follow are always times of great and sometimes frenetic activity, but times of joy and celebration as well, especially this year, it seems!
I was reflecting on all of this again, and all of the fall seasons of life and ministry over the years, when I looked back over the summer months. What are the things that we can give thanks to the Lord for these past months of summer? Surely there are many challenges that we are living through these days, but where do we, first of all, find a space and time to give thanks to God for blessings great and small? After all, the word Eucharist – the “source and summit” of our lives and ministries, means to give thanks: thanks to God for the gift of his son in our lives.
What are we going to be grateful for this past summer, and for what will we give thanks that is yet to be? After all, Mother Teresa, it is said, gave thanks to God for favors and blessings that she asked for even before they were received! And the responsorial psalm for today’s (Sept. 1) Mass (Psalm 27) proclaims “I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.” To be consciously grateful also helps us to follow the advice of Saint Paul today, which says, “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.” Can we make a short list of something to be grateful to God for this past summer, and just today?
I would like to thank one of our wonderful grade school principals for a great book on gratitude which she gave me: “Living Life as a Thank You: The Transformative Power of Daily Gratitude” by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons. In the introduction to the book, Nina and Mary Beth say, “In ancient Roman times Cicero said, ‘Gratitude is not only having the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.’” Having an attitude of gratitude is not new advice, but in our fast paced 21st century lives we need extra reminders to get in touch with the essence of life before our lives fast-forward to our final days.
As Saint Paul says in another place. “In all things give thanks, for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ toward you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
God bless you and yours and thank you for all of your sacrifice, involvement and lives of faithful example of living the Gospel in the Body of Christ here in our diocese.
The Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Orange