2017 – The year of natural disasters beyond compare; ruthless, senseless mass shootings; political disharmony; racial acts of violence…the list goes on. At first thought, many of us might wish to wipe 2017 from the compendium of time as if it never happened.
Yet, pausing, taking a step back and reflecting upon all that humanity has experienced this year reveals to the world ever more so the beauty of the Incarnation – the Word Made Flesh, Christ among us! Through his life, death, and resurrection, not only did Jesus fulfill his mission of restoring humanity’s relationship with God, offering salvation for all, he modeled for each of us the way of surrender, of trust, of endurance and perseverance, of never giving up on God’s divine providence and will in all things. On the night before he was betrayed, he cried out to his Father in anticipation of his passion, and then he ultimately surrendered as he prayed “not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) He trusted that no matter how hard, how painful the events to follow might be, his Father would hold him and keep him in his care. He endured the brutality that was inflicted upon him, and he finally saw his time on earth come to an end, persevering until death on the cross.
In all that humanity has endured in 2017 it would be so easy to lose hope, to give up and give in to despair if we remain at the cross and do not believe in the Resurrection. Light follows darkness and hope remains strong when we encounter the Risen Lord in all aspects of life! In and through Christ, we can and will persevere, and this has been revealed time and again this year through the many caring people who have been the hands and feet of Christ, bringing help and hope to those in need.
After the rains of Hurricane Harvey stopped, one of the first questions asked of others was, “Did your house flood?” Many whose homes did not flood quickly replied, “No, I was blessed!” For those who did flood, hearing this response brought painful expressions to their faces, and their minds might have questioned, “Am I not blessed because I did flood?”
“To be blessed” can be understood in different ways, and for many people being blessed might mean being without hardships. But for those who have hardships, how do they know and understand blessing? Turning to the Beatitudes (Matthew 5), we hear Christ’s words of blessing speak in seemingly paradoxical ways…
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted…
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy…”
What may seem a paradox, in actuality, is the rootedness of “blessing” for us – a divine and life-giving action, which finds its source in the Father as we praise God in all things with hearts surrendered to Him in gratitude. (CCC1078)
Some of us may have faced hardships beyond words this year; others of us may have been spared personal hardships while given the opportunity to respond to others in need with hearts of compassion and mercy. Regardless of what each of us experienced in 2017, may we realize our blessings, and may we offer hearts of gratitude in praise and surrender to our God this Thanksgiving, and throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons and beyond!
In the peace of Christ,