Thursday, November 28, 2013

in all things give thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

Several weeks ago, we had a homily at church, stressing the ALL in "In ALL things give thanks."  Most of us can say that we are thankful for the good things in our lives, and probably even remember to acknowledge God's role in that good fortune.  But that is precisely the point...we are to give thanks in ALL circumstances, not just those that we judge to be good.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm not even sure I'm a 100% at giving thanks for the things that are "good", and I KNOW I've got a long way to go before I'm very grateful for financial problems, or backstabbing co-workers, or self-centered people, or aches and pains.  But as I knelt in church today before Mass, gathering my thoughts and trying to hear God's wisdom, that was exactly what I heard.  Doesn't God always take care of us?  I know that He does when we get out of the way and let Him.  However, it is not always in the way we would have chosen.  In the last month at church our sacristan has had a stroke and relocated to an assisted living facility and the lovely lady that does our schedule for lectors and ministers of Communion has been diagnosed with stage IV cancer in her lungs, liver, and kidneys.

Are we supposed to be thankful for strokes and lost independence?  For cancer and lives interrupted?  But from a distance, I know that God can take painful circumstances and work miracles in the midst.  An acquaintance of mine passed away in October...she had fought stage IV lung cancer for nearly 5 years...doctors had given her a 15% chance of surviving a year.  She had 3 young children.  The miracle was not a cure, but a witness; so many were inspired by her battle, by the way she placed everything in God's hands.  Good did come from trials and sorrows.  But being thankful seems like a stretch.

I remembered a scene from The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.  Corrie and her sister were in a Nazi concentration camp, and are housed in a building that is infested with lice.  In all things give thanks. "Lord, we are thankful for the lice," they prayed.  Later they realize that the guards totally avoid the building because of the lice.  Lord, thank you.

In my own life, I can look back and see how good has come from things that I never would have chosen.  9-11 is what gave me the incentive or motivation to make things right in my spiritual life.  There have been other trials and losses and difficulties over the years that I would have preferred to avoid.   Yet, I can sometimes look back and think, "Oh, this is why I had to go through that!"   But even then, gratitude - if it comes at all - is often very much delayed.

Lord, help me to be grateful.  Help me not to ask you "why", but to understand "what" I am supposed to learn or to become from the difficult things in my life.  Help me to give thanks in ALL things.

1/2/14:  Updating.  My sacristan friend seems to very happy with his new living quarters, from what I've heard.

My friend diagnosed with Stage IV cancer is likely very happy with her new home, although we miss her greatly.  She underwent surgery on December 20 with great hope that the tumor could be removed and the remaining cancer successfully treated with chemo.  Her heart stopped after surgery, however, and could not be restarted.  She had told her husband that she might be "spending Christmas with Jesus" and she was totally OK with it.

The thing to be thankful for is that she felt had no symptoms from the cancer and never had any pain from it.  She had time to prepare for her death and to wrap up loose ends, and we got to hug her and tell her that we loved her.  The rosary held at the school where she worked and the memorial Mass held at our small parish were attended by hundreds.  It was beautiful.  She was beautiful.  Her husband told me, "keep praying."