God is thanksgiving

Luke 7:36-50

A bit of a ramble of thoughts today…

God has a special purpose, a special love, a special providence for all those he has created. God cares for each of us individually, watches over us, provides for us. The circumstances of each day of our lives, of every moment of every day, are provided for us by him. [This] means that every moment of our life has a purpose, that every action of ours, no matter how dull or routine or trivial it may seem in itself, has a dignity and worth beyond human understanding. No man’s life is insignificant in God’s sight. – Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J.

Everyone has a vocation.

Every single person was created by God with an intention that precedes creation itself. Regardless of the circumstances of one’s conception or of one’s parents’ reception/rejection of your coming-to-be, God unconditionally willed that each person exist. As Pope Benedict XVI said it, “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed. Each of us is loved. Each of us is necessary.” And that intention, will, thought, love and necessity continues in every subsequent moment of life into eternity. Our first vocation is to be “called into existence,” by God’s eternal decree, as human be-ings. Your first vocation is to receive existence, to receive God’s desire that you exist, and thereby receive His inscrutable love.

Revel and rejoice in that gift! If you begin and remain there, every other sense of vocation in life will be an overflow and never seem a burden.

Every other meaning of vocation flows from this first. It grounds our dignity not in what we can or cannot do, or in what we do or do not do, but in who we are. Pre-born and newborn babies, in their fragility and helplessness, are radical signs to us of this inviolable dignity that under-girds and supersedes our evolving ability to actualize various gifts, to care for ourselves and others, or to contribute to the good of humanity. Babies are screaming sacraments of the gratuitousness of existence, are the voice of God crying out, “Worthy, because loved!”

To love and care for children from the moment they come into existence in the womb — or to love any who are fragile or helpless — is to confess and express radical gratitude for our own unsolicited creation. Any good I do for others, any love or mercy or kindness I show them, is simply a just act of thanksgiving to God; an imitation of His lavish generosity in loving me into existence at every moment. My every vocational response, then, flows from this first act of gratitude. I write, love, teach, remain faithful, encourage, suffer and do all things to make of my life thanksgiving.

The Holy Eucharist, the thanksgiving of God and man — ! — makes present to us the God who gave His life away to us first by giving us life, and then by redeeming the life we wantonly threw away. In the Eucharist, God makes present to us our terrifying ingratitude as we savagely “put to death the Author of Life” (Acts 3:15). And in the Eucharist, when the words of a broken body and bloodshed are spoken over bread and wine, I tremble knowing they are spoken about me, with intention, by the “Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Who loved me, gave Himself for me. The Son is grateful to the Father in the Mass for handing Him over into our hands so that He might bring us back to life again with Him to share His supernal joy. The Father is grateful to the Son for saying Yes to this mission of love, and the Spirit is the exchange of thanksgiving between Father and Son (Luke 10:21).

St. Thomas Aquinas, when he was 5 years old, asked his teacher, “What is God?” Today I conclude, God is thanksgiving.

Is Eucharist, which just happens to be the supreme nexus of God and creation in the universe.

And thanksgiving’s source and summit, its taproot and sweetest fruit, is love.

“The sacrament of charity, the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman.” — Pope Benedict XVI

“Theos agapē estin.” — 1 John 4:8

So my real vocation is to gratefully place all that I am and have in the service of the God-Neighbor, Jesus Christ, which is another way of saying that my vocation is to love God by loving our neighbor and to love neighbor by loving God. Everything else is a secondary detail. Those who fret over their vocations to this or that way of life, this or that career, this or that location, this or that person, etc. need to transfer their angst-energy from those secondary specifics to the primary wholehearted commitment to “love in place” in the most radical way possible. If you strive to be faithful to loving in place, with the people and circumstances and health and opportunities and challenges you have right now and right here, the path ahead as to where God is leading you to expend yourself most fittingly will peacefully come. And whatever that is will, or at least should not, look any different from what you are already doing right now.

The only path to fidelity to God in the future is fidelity to God in the present.

So, simply share with God right now, in gratitude, your desire to do His will in all things. Then relax, do what you do well, trusting Him in the present to unfold your future with you. Remember what Bl. John Henry Newman said,

I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Whatever, wherever I am I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what he is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me – still He knows what He is about. Therefore I will trust Him.

So bloody relax, please, and love as best you can, repenting the rest into His fathomless mercy. Then, press on.

Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. — Phil. 4:6-7

You are so loved, in every moment God explodes in joy that you are. Drink that in, give thanks and be at peace.

There’s a light
A certain kind of light
That never shone on me
I want my life to be lived with you
Lived with you
There’s a way everybody say
To do each and every little thing
But what does it bring
If I ain’t got you, ain’t got? Hey babe

You don’t know what it’s like, baby
You don’t know what it’s like
To love somebody
To love somebody
The way I love you

13 comments on “God is thanksgiving

  1. Jennifer says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for the encouragement to “love in place” and for sharing your joy and example!
    God is good!! ❤ ❤

  2. Nos says:

    Thomas I don’t know how you can or ” will” top this post , I pray GOD that all who read this post by this oh so gifted man shares it with 3 others and they in turn each share with 3 others and they in turn and turn and turn, you get the idea GOD. + + +

    P.S.”small scale” do you ever sleep ,who’s up at 4:30 tell me who ? Oh ya you…

    • Jennifer says:

      Who’s awake at 4:30? Not me! I live in a magical time zone your country knows nothing about…two hours ahead of Tom’s. It was 6:30

    • Katy says:

      I agree! I was thinking I should print out this post, as it is truly a “post for all seasons”.

      “The only path to fidelity to God in the future is fidelity to God in the present.” Gosh, is this it or what? I am expeirencing unresolved health issues for the first time in my life, and it’s scary! But this post, this is IT.

      Thanks be to God, I have come round and round to the same conclusion each time…

      “If I can’t receive God NOW, I cannot receive Him ever.”

      “If the passion of Christ does not happen in my heart, it happens nowhere.”

      St. Catherine of Siena: “All the way to Heaven is Heaven.”

      And as my spiritual director encouraged me: “The only way to communion with God forever is communion with Him now.”

      These can seem extreme. I can quickly throw a “yeah, but…” But their alternatives, once spoken, show themselves ridiculous, and dissolve into nothing: “God is out there. God is tomorrow. God is closer once you get yourself together.”
      NO! He MUST be “Here.” “Now.” And He must be comfortable “in my life”. He must “know what He is about” and mean what he says.

      “The word of God became flesh and made his dwelling with us.” John 1.
      “Any spirit that recognizes Jesus Christ come in the flesh is of God.”

      Tom, thanks for writing this. I have a feeling this will be one I pass along and come back to myself. God Bless you!

    • Glory to God for all things, nos! May God use my work for good as you ask. Blessings!!!

  3. Bill says:

    Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. David says:

    Dr. Neal: I read your blog everyday and I thank God for you and your family for giving of yourselves and your “light of Christ” I’ve read this post 3 times and watched the video 8 times and I’ve not stopped smiling and sharing your wonderful words. thank you sir

  5. AMDG says:

    Your words, in this reflection and in so many others, are a rich invitation to enter in..into Him, into the Divine Love at the heart of the Holy of Holies of the Life of the Trinity, to be expended at His hand, for Love, in Love, by Love. It leaves me speechless.

    I am so grateful it doesn’t leave you speechless!

    I don’t know if your words are the fruit of a desert-induced thirst, a sharing of Christ’s Thirst, or if they are the flowering of the lush fertility of the garden of His Love (which I guess is the same place! What Mystery He is), but I am grateful over and over again that He has asked you to share the Truth of His Love here with us and that you are obedient.

    May you be abundantly blessed, as we are also blessed, by this obedience — for His Glory, for Love.

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