From 1998 – 2004, I served as a spiritual director for the seminarians at Saint Meinrad Seminary in southern Indiana, one of the seminaries used by the Diocese of Toledo. Saint Meinrad Seminary is operated by the monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey. While I was there, the archabbot (the “head monk”) was Fr. Lambert, who also led retreats all over the country and the world; in fact, he was a popular retreat master for the Little Sisters of the Poor. His mother died at the home in Pittsburgh, so he has a special place in his heart for the Congregation. One of the things that Fr. Lambert says is this: “Everything in life is a blessing; we’re just so dumb that we think blessings are only the things we agree with.”
I’m thinking about that line at Thanksgiving 2014; I’m thinking that it applies to most of us as we call to mind those people and things for which we are grateful. We remember our families and friends, we remember the things accomplished, we remember the challenges defeated. Natural enough. Fr. Lambert reminds us, however, that everyone and everything is a pathway to God — an opportunity to learn more about the depth of God’s love for us and God’s mercy towards us. These include people and events that, on the surface, seem only bad.
Some examples. We all know people who are living with sickness and life-threatening diseases. I think most of us would agree that this is bad — tragic, even; but some of these people have been able to use illness to help them identify with the Passion of Christ. In the process, they have come to a greater awareness of what it means to embrace not only the Cross of Jesus, but the Resurrection of Jesus — new life now, New Life in the Kingdom of God. There are also those who have experienced the death of a loved one. Sure, they still grieve the loss, but they have been able to use their grief as a motivator to reach out to others in need. Or, how about those who have been able to forgive another? They know the grace of focusing, not on the past, but on the future. It’s a future full of promise: a renewed relationship with the person(s) who hurt, a new relationship with the God they have become more like.
Thanksgiving 2014 invites us to “not be dumb.” As the people of God, we are called to recognize that everyone and everything can help us learn more about God.