When I read the prompt for the November blog post, “What are three things that you are grateful for?”, it called to mind a line from the Eucharistic prayer at Mass that has always stood out to me. After the dialogue where the priest invites the people, “Lift up your hearts,” and everyone responds, “We lift them up to the Lord”, the priest continues, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” to which everyone responds, “It is right and just.”
Immediately after this dialogue, the priest recites the following line of the Eucharistic prayer: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father most holy…”. This line has always struck me as something deep and important, like a glimpse of wisdom from God. Our duty and our salvation have to do with giving thanks to God.
What does that mean for me in the context of my actual lived experience, with the gifts and challenges of every day, and those that span the course of my lifetime? To me, I receive this gift of wisdom as something very liberating, and something that challenges me to grow profoundly in my trust in God; a call to believe more and more in the absolute goodness of God.
If it is right and just… to give thanks always and everywhere, that means that even in the circumstances of my life that seem difficult, those that I least understand, my salvation and my freedom lie in giving thanks to God. How can I give thanks to God, when faced with something extremely painful or difficult? I think it means believing in the victory of God over sin and death, and over every form of evil, even before I can see it with my own eyes. It means believing that his love is and will always be victorious over evil.
If Mary is the perfect model of Christian discipleship, then it would be interesting to consider how she lived out this truth, that it is our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give thanks to God the Father through Jesus Christ. One poignant example of this in the life of Mary is her presence at the foot of the Cross of her son Jesus. What must have been her inner attitude at that moment? Was she thankful in that moment, the darkest and most painful of all the moments in her life?
I believe that her motherly heart must have been completely broken, just as our hearts break for all that is sad, violent, and evil in this world. However, I think that her heart broke, without despair and without doubting the goodness of God, even if she must not have understood everything at that moment. It has been said that even at the foot of the Cross, Mary sang the Magnificat from the depths of her soul, and I believe that to be true.
Through his Resurrection, Jesus won the ultimate victory over all that causes us to suffer, sometimes very deeply, in this life. This light of the Resurrection is the only light that can guide us through the most challenging, painful, and incomprehensible moments of life. It is the light that reminds us that God is good and that he is victorious over every form of evil, no matter how painful or obscure.
Truly it is the Paschal Mystery of Christ that turns our mourning into dancing and our sorrow into joy. How many times throughout the Gospel did he bring light to those in darkness and heal those afflicted by every kind of evil. He calmed the storm at sea and he cast out demons. He turned water into wine and gave every proof of his power and his goodness, even to the point of laying down his own life in order to conquer death itself.
So no matter what, I do well to remember to give thanks to God always and everywhere, even in difficult and obscure moments, just as Mary sang the Magnificat at the foot of the Cross, even from the depth of her natural sorrow and devastation. As long as with God’s help I remember to renew my faith and trust in the goodness of God and my hope in his victory I can find freedom and salvation by giving thanks to God who loves me, and who gave his life for me.