Bishop Hying

With grace and gratitude, the Lord directs hearts to ponder blessings and gifts in spirit of wonder and awe

     As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on November 18, 2018


      I have reflected often in this column on the power and grace of gratitude as a hallmark Christian virtue. As we once again approach Thanksgiving, the Lord directs our hearts to ponder our blessings and gifts in a spirit of wonder and awe. 

      This human existence has always appeared magical, mysterious and mystical to me. The fact that we did not choose to be, but simply found ourselves in this body, living in this place on this planet with these particular gifts and experiences reminds us that we are not our own.

      When we realize that we belong to Another, the One who creates us, saves us and loves us, we come to know our dependence on God and our essential connections with other people. As Americans, we value independence, autonomy, freedom and choices. To be dependent, needy and limited is repugnant to our sense of self. 

      Just ponder losing the power of your legs, or the ability to drive a car.  That fear of being trapped, at the mercy of another, unable to do everything we want becomes a gnawing force.

      Thanksgiving Day (and for us as Catholics, every day is an opportunity to give thanks and praise to God, not just the fourth Thursday of November) reminds us that we are dependent on the Lord and each other, and that is not a bad thing, but a beautiful reality. 

      A healthy realization of my dependence frees me from isolation, arrogance, fear and pride. I depend on God for everything, from my next breath to the promise of eternal life. Without Jesus, I am utterly lost.  Without the Holy Spirit, I am spiritually dead. Without other people, I could not eat, take medicine, go to school, enjoy a good meal, get baptized or have meaning in life. 

      God invites us to rejoice in our dependence on him, which is another way of proclaiming that we are his beloved children, invited to trust in a loving mercy and a benevolent providence beyond our grasp of understanding. To assert my dependence is to revel in the goodness of the Lord and the beauty of my brothers and sisters. 

      To assert my dependence is to lay down the burden of always needing to be in control, have the right answer, be strong and stand on my own. To assert my dependence is to acknowledge the debt of service, love and sacrifice that I owe to others who are intrinsically bound to me in their need and vulnerability.  Giving generously to others becomes the rent I pay for the privilege of living on this earth and being a member of a reality as noble as the human race.

      This Thanksgiving, I praise the Lord for the gift of life, the presence of Jesus in the Church and the sacraments, my family and friends, interesting books to read and coffee in the morning, the gift of knowledge and faith, meaningful work to embrace and the power of my vocation. I thank God for health, the rising sun, the array of stars at night, the abilities to hear, see, taste and feel, arms and legs that work and a heart restless for love and joy. 

      I glorify the Trinity for the promise of eternal life, the truth of my soul, the promise of forgiveness and the beauty of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

      I am thankful for the gift of living, serving, leading and loving here in the Diocese of Gary with our priests, religious, deacons, lay leaders and faithful. I am even grateful for the problems, challenges and difficulties that present themselves, for in them, I can see the grace of the Lord at work, smoothing out the rough patches, teaching me patience, inviting me to love what is imperfect and broken, both in others and in myself. 

      Would I really be happy if I got everything I wanted, if no struggles, limits or frustrations ever crossed my path?  As hard as it is to admit such a thing, probably not.  We grow so much from what is tested and tried in the crucible of suffering.

      When I examine my life from this glorious position of gratitude, I feel like a blessed character in a Dickens novel, one of those British Victorian personalities with a clever name who navigates the trials and challenges of existence, falling into moments of darkness and suffering, but is ultimately guided by the benevolence of the kind author towards an improbably happy conclusion! 

      If the drama of human history is fundamentally a divine love story, guided by the grace and mercy of God, we are significant players on the ultimate stage, finding our lines in the pages of the Gospel, acting our part in the mystery of salvation, finding joy, purpose and fulfillment in surrendering to the Author of life who dreamed us up in an infinitely creative imagination and loves us to the end with a shattering goodness which confounds and consoles us at the same time. 

      If the two fundamentally human fears are our terror of being fundamentally alone and being forgotten, God has rescued us from both in the grand mystery of salvation in Christ.  When we know what loneliness and darkness we have been saved from, and we have tasted the abundance of the life the Lord offers us, a boisterous sense of gratitude and praise is the only reasonable response.  May each of you know a Thanksgiving Day which continues all life-long!


       + Donald J. Hying

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