July 1, 2018

With the beginning of July, we are entering into the midst of summer. This coming week, when we celebrate the Fourth of July, many of us here in the northwest say that summer really begins. Although, that may be changing as we experienced a week of very hot weather week before last!

Summer gives us an opportunity to slow down, to spend more quality time with family and friends and to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. I hope you get a chance to do that this summer. I recently read an article that described how little time Americans take for vacations compared to citizens of other countries. This is unfortunate, and for Christians in particular, can be problematic for our spiritual lives.

The Sabbath rest was an important norm for our ancestors in the faith. It was a way for them, and is a way for us, to step back from the grind that we can get into with working long hours with little respite. By extension, the Sabbath offered by the summer can be a welcome time for us to rest in the Lord’s goodness and to remember the source of all our blessings.

This might be the most important dimension of the summer rest - providing time and space to reflect on our blessings and give the Lord thanks and praise for those gifts in our lives. I know that culturally we surround Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays with prayers of gratitude. And that is appropriate. But I wonder if summer offers a less hectic and more leisurely time to reflect on our blessings.

We know that nourishing and nurturing a heart of gratitude is fundamental to our relationship with God. The one who is the giver of all our blessings - our lives, our families and friends, the relative material comfort we enjoy, our gifts and talents - all of these have been given to us by a good and gracious God.

Taking time to give thanks to God is what the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is all about.  We gather on the day of the resurrection, the first day of the week, to offer God our praise and thanks for all our gifts, and especially the gift of his Son. It is the gift of the Word Made Flesh that saves us from sin and death once and for all time. It is this same saving love that accompanies us every day of our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. So, we gather to give thanks.

Acknowledging our blessings also prompts us to reflect on those in our communities, our country and our world, who are less materially comfortable than we are. While they may have different blessings (e.g., a slower pace of life), many live on the edge with safety, a roof over their heads and enough food to eat a constant struggle. Counting our blessings does not mean simply thanking God that we are not like those who struggle materially. Knowing that we are blessed, and that blessing is pure gift from God, calls us to work on behalf of those who are less well off.

In a particular way this summer, the Pope and the U.S. Bishops have asked us to pray for, and work on behalf of migrants and refugees. These brothers and sisters, in their desperation, lay claim to our abundance.

May this summer be a time of rest and deepening of relationships with those near and far. May we take time to thank God for our many blessings, and may we give back to the Lord in thanks by serving the people, his people, who are most in need.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni