Skip to main content

Gratitude and Mercy

For those who have read my blog over the years, you may have noticed that I find themes or words that become the focus. These are not consciously crafted, but patterns that evolve. Sometimes it is a word or theme that permeates a liturgical season like Lent or Advent. I am finding that the start of 2014 is developing a theme for the year and it is Gratitude.

In this post-Christmas season of thank-you notes it is easy to contemplate gratitude. We all have those gifts that we absolutely love and for which we cannot say "thank you" enough. Then there are those that we look at and say, "Well, that is interesting." And while we are tempted to roll our eyes and grumble about having to deal with more useless stuff, it is always good to remember that it is rare that a gift is given for any reason other than to bring you joy. Sometimes it misses the mark, but the intent was there so our thanks may be for the intention rather than for the gift itself and that is ok.

The initial way to think about gratitude is to just count our blessings. It is rather passive. "Thank you, God, for my family, my health, my job, my daily bread, etc." But I am finding that 2014 is making me look at gratitude from a more active perspective. I have been blessed and I do need to be cognizant of all the gifts I have been given from God. Yet I can not just sit idly and count my treasure. I must humbly admit that I am unworthy of any of it. God has blessed me in spite of my sinfulness. My gratitude for all these wonderfully happy blessings must be overshadowed by my gratitude for God's incredible mercy. I do not deserve these gifts yet they are given anyway.

Therefore, my gratitude needs to progress from a childlike litany of "Thank you God for..." to a gratitude that seeks to imitate God's mercy. Thank you, God, for my family. Help me to do what I can to support and strengthen other families. I know some family problems may be due to poor choices and mistakes. They brought these problems upon themselves. That should never stop me from offering love, mercy, and support instead of judgment and condemnation.

Thank you, God, for my daily bread. I do not support the way many government or private programs address the problems of poverty and hunger. But that cannot allow me to tolerate a single person going hungry or wanting for clothing or shelter no matter the reason for his suffering. Maybe he screwed up. Maybe he didn't. He may be hungry because of poor choices. He may be hungry because of bad luck. It doesn't matter. He is a human person with intrinsic dignity and must be fed. In respect for that dignity, I will feed him, but I will also enable him to feed himself in the future.

Now here is the really hard one for me: I will not shut anyone out of my life because I think their offenses, opinions, or ideology make them unworthy. Shunning them is withholding love. Loving them does not mean I will condone and support everything they do. They may choose to avoid me because I do not give my approval to their actions. But I will not be the one to shut the door.

It is easy to see myself as the Brother of the Prodigal Son and resent the mercy offered to others. My goal is 2014 is to remember how often I have actually been the Prodigal Son and received mercy and express my gratitude for that mercy by offering it to others.

Comments

While I appreciate your kind sentiments and agree with your conclusions that we should not let anyone go hungry, I am a bit confused on the statement, "he screwed up."

It is very untrue that every hungry person has "screwed up." Sometimes people are laid off, get ill, burn through their savings and still have no job in sight....at this point, they are driven to go to a food bank, etc. Yes, there may be money enough to support one or two people with a minimum wage job, but what about the dad/mom of a gang of 6+ kids?

Even in our supposed charitable thoughts, we have aspersions of judgement....

And for me, it took going through it to make me double take when I thought I knew the story behind someone having to accept assistance. We were there.
Denise Hunnell said…
I agree I did not express my views clearly. I was not meaning to imply that everyone who suffered hunger had screwed up. What I was trying to say was that even if they had screwed up, they deserve to be fed. I have rewritten that section. Thanks for the feedback!

Popular posts from this blog

Parent Letter from a Catechist

I am going to be teaching seventh grade CCD this year. We do most of the preparation for confirmation during this year since Confirmation is usually scheduled for the fall of the eighth grade year.I have composed a letter to the parents to try and keep them active in their children's religious education. I thought I would post it here and get your feedback before I send it out in a couple of weeks.

I am privileged to be your child’s seventh grade CCD teacher for the 2006-2007 school year. This is a very important year. We will focus on your child’s preparation for confirmation. Of course, you have already been preparing your child for this sacrament for many years. You are the primary catechist for your child. You show how important your Faith is by making Mass attendance a top priority and by family prayer.

Confirmation is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a beginning. It is not a graduation. This year we will work to solidify the foundation of your child’s Catholic Faith.…

Dispelling the Myth of the Travel Dispensation

One of the fun things about having a site meter on my blog is I can see which posts garner the most attention. I can also see how people find my blog. One of the most read posts from my two years of blogging is this one that discusses finding Mass while traveling. I would like to think this post is so popular because it is so well written. The truth of the matter is that it generates so much traffic because I use the words “travel dispensation for Mass”—as in “There is no such thing as a travel dispensation for Mass.” I would guess that nearly a dozen times every week, someone googles “travel dispensation for Mass” and finds my blog. I wonder how many of these folks are poor souls trying to assuage their Catholic guilt with evidence of a justification for missing Mass while on the road.

I know that when I tell my seventh grade CCD students that attending Mass every Sunday is a commandment (one of the top ten!) and not just a pretty good idea they are amazed. Missing Mass has become so …

United Breaks Guitars

This guy is really talented and what a creative way to get your message across. I think he captured the "indifferent employee" perfectly. They don't just work for airlines. I think I ran into them at Walmart on Friday!