Not only is today [this weekend] the 5th Sunday of Easter, but it is also Mother’s Day. So, before I begin the homily, I’d like to wish all moms here today a very happy Mother’s Day. Thanks to you who have brought forth and nurtured new life with generous hearts, for which we are eternally grateful. Thank you for your patience, guidance, and sacrifice in fulfilling your calling as moms. So much of what you do is quiet and unnoticed by anyone except God. I hope you all enjoy a wonderful and well-deserved Mother’s Day.
On this day where we take time to give thanks for our moms, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on the role of gratitude throughout our lives. As Christians, as humans, we have been saved by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. An innocent man, the second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, laid down his life to rescue each and every one of us from the clutches of sin and death. This gift we received was completely undeserved and yet Jesus gave it anyway. What is our response? Gratitude should be central to our Life in Christ. In some way gratitude is our Life in Christ. You and I have nothing that we have not received: from our parents, from other people, and ultimately, from God. There are only two ways to respond to a gift: 1) with humble gratitude expressed by some form of “thank you” or 2) with an attitude of entitlement, which is manifested by the thinking “I deserve this”.
There is a humorous story about how much we have received and how little gratitude we often show: A grandmother takes her grandson to the beach. The boy goes out in a boat which tips over. The grandmother starts shouting for help. No one comes. Finally she prays, "Please, God, send someone to rescue my grandchild." As if out of nowhere a man appears, dives in the water and brings the boy, gasping, to shore. The grandmother comforts him and starts straightening out the boy's wet clothes, then stops, looks to heaven and says, "He had a hat!"
We smile because we recognize our own selves. God has given us everything: life, health, family, friends, talents, material blessings, and so much more. What each of us have is certainly more than we deserve. Instead of constant gratitude we easily get upset when one thing goes wrong. Getting stuck in traffic, a negative comment, a bad meal, poor weather, or any other number of setbacks or inconveniences lead us to think negative thoughts about our life or God’s love for us. We've been given everything but easily become sad when one part is taken away. That is, unless we are in the habit of being grateful and counting our blessings rather than disappointments.
By way of contrast there is a Jewish prayer called Dayenu which means, "It would be sufficient” or “it would’ve been enough.” This prayer is part of the Passover celebration and I was reminded of it when I had the privilege of participating in a Christian seder meal just before Easter with our RCIA people. The prayer is a grateful listing of all the blessings God gave to his people throughout the ages. After each blessing is remembered, everyone at the table says, “dayenu”, meaning “it would have been enough”. So the prayer sounds something like this: If God had led us through the Red Sea, but not to Mount Sinai, it would have been enough. If God had given the manna, but not led us to the Promised Land, it would have been enough. If God sent us the prophets of truth and not made us a holy people, it would have been enough. This prayer of thanks goes on to observe 26 solemn blessings but I think you get the idea.
When we look at our own lives with this same spirit of gratitude, we are both humbled by God’s incredible generosity and blown away by the sheer number of blessings we receive. If I say the “dayenu” prayer in terms of my own experience, it looks something like this: If God had opened heaven for me but not forgiven me over and over again, it would have been enough. If God had given me the Eucharist but not called me to the priesthood, where I become his presence for so many it would have been enough. If God had called me to be a priest but not a pastor, it would had been enough. And on and on would go my blessings. I cannot tell you how many nights I pause before bed and say, “thank you Lord for letting me pastor of this beautiful parish and these wonderful people.” Hopefully this is not the first time you have heard me say this!
I could easily say the same prayer in terms of my mom. If mom had given me life and not raised me, fed me, and taught me countless points of wisdom and virtue, it would have been enough. If mom had taught me those things but not reinforced them by example, it would have been enough. If mom had forgiven me for all the silliness and pettiness of childhood but not remained loving and supportive, it would have been enough. And of course, my list, and hopefully yours too, could go on and on!
For today, remember this: Gratitude builds faith. The more we say thank you to God for our blessings (both the big ones like faith, family, and friends and the little ones like good food, fun moments, and laughing till it hurts) the more our faith will grow. Rather than focus on what we are missing or what didn’t work out, remember what we actually have. Try to say the Dayenu prayer every day, in your own words for the specific blessings you recognize. I promise you, your eyes will be opened to how present Jesus is in your day. You will find yourself saying, “It is enough” or more appropriately, “God is Enough!”