Contemplative Life, Liturgical Seasons

20/20 Vision Through the Lens of Gratitude

The eye doctor remarked on how much my vision had changed during the past year. I waited with increasing anticipation for more than the week it took for the optician to prepare new lenses for me. Finally, I excitedly picked up my new lenses and experienced once again the blessing and joy of seeing well through the correct eye glasses prescription. Far off signs are clear and the lettering is distinct. I’m reminded of my first pair of glasses long ago. I could see! Colors, trees and leaves, people, all were vivid with distinct features, all beautiful. I am always so thankful for this recurring gift of sight.

Thankfulness. Gratitude. It seems to me that Thanksgiving is having a hard time competing this year. Commercial Christmas began even before the Halloween candy appeared. Retailers competed for sales with expanded store hours and reduced prices on Thanksgiving Day and the day after. Frantic, frenetic Christmas shopping is upon us. Worldwide, events compete and conspire to wring out any Thanksgiving gratitude: terrorism, war, refugees, injustice, and homelessness, just to name a few. And yet, the appearance is deceiving. Thanksgiving Day is an opportunity to pause and reflect. The “Alphabet of Thanksgiving” posted by Bill Haley is a lens in our spiritual eye glasses that helps us bring into focus the deeper truth of our reality and leads us into thankfulness and gratitude. I am reminded of the Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon of St. Francis of Assisi,

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor and all blessings.

To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.

“No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.” Gratitude leads me into humility. Advent follows on the heels of Thanksgiving. For me Advent is a period of learning to wait and be patient. But the prophets tell us that there is more to the story. The God who created all and to whom I just celebrated Thanksgiving came in the flesh. This same God is present today through the Holy Spirit. This same God will come again. These three truths are known as the mystery of faith.

Realizing this is overwhelming. And so, the church in its wisdom leads me from gratitude, worship and thanks, to Christ the King, to realizing that as I am filled with Christ’s love, to “I am so not worthy of that”, to “I best prepare my heart for his coming”. Over this past year I have known the amazing faithfulness and mercy of the Lord. I have seen where the Lord my Shepherd was present, both in the mountaintop experiences and in the depths of the valley. I can see some growth and I can see areas still very much in need of growth. I am reminded, though, that the Lord loves me just as the Lord also loves you.  The Psalmist expressed it so well in Psalm 136 with its refrain, “for his steadfast love endures forever.” From the wonders the Lord performs, to his comforting presence at the time of tragic death, his steadfast love endures forever. This is the reality of life that I learned once again during the period after my sister’s death. It is this reality that drives me to my knees, to repent and prepare the way of the Lord in my heart. I am invited to get my spiritual vision checked. More and more as I desire God I see more of the real me that is not of God.

Advent is a wonderful time to invite the Lord to provide level ground for the valleys and high places and to make the rough places smooth. (Isaiah 40:3-4) Our response to God’s love is gratitude. He made us for gratitude! As we thank God he fills us more with his love. And, we just have to give it away! That’s the amazing thing about gratitude, it results in loving others. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Oh how wonderful it is to receive God’s love and to spend time in prayer with him in gratitude as I realize the immensity of his gift to me … his presence, his provision, his providence, his protection. And when my heart just won’t hold it any more how much more blessed it is to give it away … and it becomes love … God’s love. The glory of the Lord is revealed. (Isaiah 40:5)

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