"I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: 'My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness…'" Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 6
There are days I struggle to be thankful. I get bogged down by the responsibilities, the disappointments, the frustrations, the sorrows, the mundane things of day to day life, and I forget. I forget that I was given another day to breathe, another day to live, another day to love, another day to share the many gifts God has given me. If I were to make a spreadsheet comparing my struggles with my blessings, clearly my blessings would win out every time.
I also know that there are times when our wounds are so fresh that joy and thanksgiving are mustered with great difficulty. I know what it is to lose someone near a holiday, what it is to wish that they were able to share those moments of festivity and celebration, the milestones and the everyday. This Thanksgiving, I know more than a handful of people who are in the midst of that struggle, the battle to stay afloat in the joy and the thanksgiving though their hearts are breaking. Young wives and mothers who have lost husbands and children, families who have lost beloved parents and grandparents, military families who mourn the loss of their loved ones or ache to be reunited, those who are still struggling with unemployment and loss of homes...the ache of our brothers and sisters is plenty.
Through all the heartache, Jesus reminds us that we will rejoice again, that His goodness and mercy endure beyond any darkness we might face now. Amidst the storm, we know He is with us. While he may not take away all the pain, unlike any other person on the face of the earth, Jesus knows what it is to suffer. More than that, Jesus promises us that if we unite our crosses to His cross, if we cling to His promise, if we surrender everything to Him, we will rise with Him. Blessed Mother Teresa reminded us to never be so filled with the sorrow of Good Friday that we forget the joy of Easter Sunday. So it is on a daily basis, and so it is this day when we celebrate our gratitude for all God has done for us in this last year.
Let us pray for all those who are in mourning, those who are missing loved ones on this day. Let's pray that the Lord might fill their hearts with peace, that they may be surrounded by those who bring them comfort and share with them the joy of the Lord when they may not be able to feel it on their own. Let us pray that we might always be able to praise God and take comfort in His promises, even in the midst of life's biggest storms.
A blessed Thanksgiving to one and all from our home to yours! I am thankful to be on this journey with each of you, whether in person or in spirit.
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