Bishop Hying

We are called to give thanks and praise to the bounteous Giver of all gifts

      One of my favorite authors is G.K. Chesterton, a convert to Catholicism and an insightfully witty author. He wrote much on the mystery and wonder of life, concluding that our existence in this world is both mystical and magical. He spoke often of gratitude, the intuitive response to the Giver of all gifts when we realize the enormity of what we have received from the hands of God. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, we know, as Christians, that thankfulness is not simply limited to the fourth Thursday of November. For us, it is a way of life and the vision of understanding the world.

      When I contemplate my life - the beauty, truth and goodness that surround me every day - my heart overflows with gratitude. I thank God for the big things - the mercy and love of the Lord, the promise of salvation and forgiveness, the presence of Jesus and the Church, the gift of the Scriptures and the sacraments, the friendship of the saints.  I thank Him for my family and friends, the people who show me kindness and love beyond anything I ever deserve or even dare to ask for.  I am enormously grateful for the call to the priesthood and the extraordinary privilege of serving as the bishop of this wonderful diocese. All of it is a gift, undeserved, unearned and unexpected.

      I also thank the Lord for the “little” things - meals shared with friends, books to read, pilgrimages to beautiful places, exercise at the gym, a bed to sleep in and work to do, warm clothes to wear in the winter, sunsets and clouds, birds in the sky, the joy of walking down a country road on a summer’s day. It’s easy to take our life for granted, to stop seeing the wonders and miracles that surround us, to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we have been given, to view the problems and difficulties more than the blessings and the gifts, to look at what is wrong rather than what is so gloriously right.

      Gratitude saves us from self-pity, resentment, jealousy, anger, selfishness and entitlement.  Thankfulness sets us free to be generous, joyful, kind and sacrificial, because we know that everything we have is a gift, meant to be shared and passed on to others. When I can embrace the mystery, wonder and beauty that surround me, I realize that all of us act out the drama of our lives on a far bigger stage than we can dare to imagine, for we are all players in God’s big love story and that is where Jesus comes in.

      Jesus came to earth to freely share with us the bounty of the Father’s love. He fed, taught, healed and forgave thousands of people, not because they deserved or earned it, but precisely because they didn’t.  His whole life was a gift of God to the human race, the radical and profound gift of self, poured out in the Son becoming flesh. Jesus’ big miracles and the unrecorded kindnesses, His thunderous preaching and benevolent laughter, His feeding of the 5,000 and the intimate dinners with friends, the foot-washing and the Eucharist and finally His suffering and death on the cross are all divine gifts, not only for the people of that time but also for us.

      Jesus gifts us every day with a new opportunity, a fresh start to live our limited days in imitation of His gracious generosity. Each moment of our lives contains within itself the tantalizing fingerprints of God, inviting us to be joyful and grateful. One of my favorite quotes comes from Henry David Thoreau, a naturalist, author, conscientious objector (he had the courage to condemn the injustice of the Mexican-American War) and social commentator. He famously said, “I went to the woods to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  He also said (less famously) “I am grateful for what I am and have.  My thanksgiving is perpetual.” 

      When we have the courage to “front only the essential facts of life,” we discover the fundamental truths of the universe: God created us in sheer graciousness; love is the explanation of everything; we will only know joy when we give ourselves away; Jesus calls us to a life of service and gratitude; everything is a gift from the Father. When I contemplate the wonder of my existence, my heart overflows with gratitude to God and to all of you, the wonderful people He has placed in my life. We bring all of that thankfulness and praise to the Eucharist, a Greek word that means “thanksgiving.” As we pause this week to give thanks and praise, we glorify the bounteous Giver of all gifts, the “Divine Magician” as Chesterton put it, the One who pulled all of this beauty, truth and goodness out of the divine hat and gave it to us!


+ Donald J. Hying


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