counting blessings

There is an old tradition that tells of Abram (his slight name change came later), looking after his father’s wood carving studio one day. Abraham (knowing that the wooden statues were only idols and that there was only ONE God), smashed all the idols to pieces.

It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall when Abram’s dad returned.

The tradition continues that Abram explained to his father than when his (Abram’s) back was turned, all the idols got into a fight which finished only when one (the biggest) won. “Yeah, right” his dad might have said! But the point was made, and today we know Abraham as the Father in Faith for the three great monotheistic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Today’s psalm tells of the Israelites forgetting the many blessings they had received from God and turning to the worship of idols. They had seen their God part waters for them (remember the Red Sea?) enabling them to escape to freedom. They had so much proof that God was with them actively and regularly working miracles for them, but their own busyness and concerns caused them to forget the only God who had the power to save them:

“They fashioned a calf at Horeb
and worshipped an image of metal,
exchanging the God who was their glory

for the image of a bull that eats grass.

They forgot the God who was their saviour,

who had done such great things in Egypt
such portents in the land of Ham,

such marvels at the Red Sea.

I heard someone suggest today that these next few weeks of lockdown in New Zealand proffered an unprecedented and extraordinary opportunity for our growth.

I agree.

Over the next few weeks most of us will not have to work as much as we usually do. Even if we want to, we won’t be able to. If we use the weeks wisely we will have more spare time and even free time than an annual vacation gives us. The occupations and escapes we usually have (including work, school and study) will not be available to us. Families will be able to spend more time together.

So what do we do? What can we do? What might someone who speaks of these days as an opportunity be thinking?

Here’s my thought.

In these weeks we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn to live without the compulsive busyness and idol-worship that usually fills our days, surrounded by others who are having to live the same reality.

My suggestion is that a great place to start living, especially in difficult circumstances, is by counting our blessings.

These weeks are an opportunity to live fully, giving time to the things that really matter.

I can’t imagine how hard it was for people who lived and suffered through the 1918 flu epidemic in which 50 million people worldwide and over 8000 people in New Zealand died. In that tragedy there was little communication and people living in Fairlie had no idea if their family and friends 100km away in Waimate were still living.

Today we enter lockdown with easy and free communication by phone, text email and Skype.

In 1918 those living in isolation had a pack of cards and a few books for recreation. Today we have every game, movie and book imaginable at our fingertips.

Now that’s a bunch of blessings to start with.

I’m not suggesting that these days will be easy. Living in a confined space with a small group of others even family and friends will be a hot-house of growth as relationships are tested, pressing us to deeper appreciation of what is truly essential in life.

Without Christ these days will be very difficult. But lived with Christ these weeks are a grace-filled opportunity.

Today let’s make a decision to call on Christ in every moment of this lockdown, every tension and every opportunity, letting Jesus turn our hope for survival into a deeper desire to thrive.

Just as I was finishing typing this reflection a WhatsApp message came through from a young friend in the north of Italy. I was moved and inspired by what he wrote. I know he won’t mind me sharing his words with you:

Dear John! How are you? Very tough time over here. We are all fine, but many people not because of virus. It’s a time for conversion, a great opportunity to “deepen our self-consciousness” using Giussani’s words. The sacrifice of staying at home and is becoming a possibility of looking at details especially in my family, never experienced before or taken for granted up to now. We pray a lot together, we do School of Community via web, with a new intensity as an evidence of 2 main things among the others:
1) i feel naked and disarmed, so in total need of an answer, a sense, which is NOT in my hands;
2) Christ is present and our fellowship is a more clear evidence that; This Lent time is totally different, possibly a way to live the in a new way the passion of Jesus.
Take care my friend…

I replied to him and a minute later he responded adding:

I feel useless too, every morning especially. My works should be travelling the world and I’m here preparing breakfast for my family. My criteria of being useful are not the same as God’s, thanks be to Him! I’m discovering much more for me, hidden behind that breakfast! I wish you the daily living together with others could provide this possibility of being beggars before Christ…

An Invitation:

  • You might find it helpful to take a sheet of paper and draw a timeline for your life up to now marking high points and low points above and below the line. Then take a few minutes to breathe deeply and know that Jesus is with you, asking him to reveal to you the moments, experience and people that have helped you to know and experience the reality of God with you throughout your life. Remember some of these might be the easy moments and the friendly people, but God also comes to us through the enemies and the unwanted circumstances. You can also do this without paper and pen…whenever you get a chance today, invite Jesus to reveal to you a blessing that you have received in your life. A little later ask him again and let him remind you of another blessing.
  • How is the LEGO building of bible stories going? Remember the post last week – at this link. Send your pics and I will post here as a daily inspiration from children to all of us.
  • Thank you to all who offer comments (below) which are now the most inspiring part of these daily posts for me and for many others. You have little idea of how much your few words are helping the faith of others.
18 Responses to "counting blessings"
  1. Morning John Thank you for sharing. Practicing with Jesus in the quiet I here outside. Blessings on your day. Marg.

  2. Thank you Fr John. At the heart of gratefulness for me, is that l can step outside, head up the road a little bit, turn right and l’m into one of the bush walks. I am alone with bird song, peace, my reflections begin. They will not be recorded, hopefully they will be lived.

  3. Good Morning Father

    Thank you for your words I look forward to this every morning as I wait for my family to wake and I have the peace to sit and reflect. I am so grateful that in this lockdown I can spend more time with our God and time strengthening my faith and connecting with my family without the rush of life. God Bless.

  4. Good morning John, your reflection starts my quiet time with the Lord this morning. Because you write these, as we all go through this, it feels more relevant than my usual daily reflections. I am grateful for my family being in their own wee bubbles, scattered around NZ, but that we can still contact each other. God’s blessings. Mary.

  5. It will be a rather interesting birthday. Born three years into WW2 with the dreadful noises of another three years of bombing, death and deprivation. Today so very quiet out there RAF

  6. Blessings Abundant here in my Retirement Home Care and kindness. Missing the boys next door at St Thomas’s and praying for them and All teachers.

  7. Yes indeed, John and all sisters and brothers..
    It is said the prayer of thanks is most healing….
    Some suggest a word of thanks on rising and before sleeping.

    I find St Francis de Sales prayer puts me in a positive frame of mind each morning. “I thank and acclaim you Lord, for lovingly bringing me safely to this new day…”

    Oh, don’t forget Sarah. 😉

  8. Thank you for your messages Fr. John. I awake grab my phone and know you will be there to enlighten me with thoughts and prayers for the day. Then I leave my bed and prepare myself for onlineMass. What a lovely start to the day. Full of love and hope. Thank you Lord

  9. Fr. John, thank you for your wisdom and for giving us such a wonderful start to the day. Giving thanks for the internet and the technology to keep us grounded in the faith and with each other.

  10. Counting blessings or even trying to think of three joys or good things, helps put things in perspective, especially in anxious times. I found the words ‘God is with us’ ‘Here I am Lord, I come to do your will’ and ‘Do not be afraid’ Stuck in my mind yesterday. That’s three blessings.

  11. Fr John thank you for your inspiration each day. I feel this time of lockdown can be a Retreat in preparation for Easter, what a wonderful opportunity to be still and reflect without the all distractions of our busy lives.

  12. This journey together during these days makes it more meaningfulness as it bless each one with graces that in solidarity we walk together and individually it gives courage , enlighten to go deeply into heightened self awareness. It is many blessings in disguise to work and develop on what matters in daily living in right relationship with oneself , others and each other . It is a turning point to make a change and to choose what would make a big difference in living well, relating well and living in freedom. Thank Fr John and everyone inspiring each other.

  13. I am thankful for this site and the sense of community it provides with like minded faithfilled people who can delve so deeply into their spirituality unabashed.
    I am going to introduce this site to the elderly people in my church who may not know about it.
    I will be such a wonderful support to those isolating alone.
    Blessings to you Fr John and all of you who are already being fed the daily bread from this site

    • Thanks Fr John.
      My hubby and I had breakfast together today then by surprise he said I will come with you on your daily walk. We walked over a hour in the countryside farmland. The best part was I enjoyed our just talking about anything, him pointing out landmarks. The scenery was beautiful with the mountains, trees, animals in paddocks. We waved to everyone who drove past us. It was a precious moment of the day spent together, just chatting. Then on our return he got s call to go to work as he is in transport, an essential service. Now I can read my missal and as said we have all the devices to keep in touch with people. Just a phone call to someone might make their day !

  14. It is great to be able to pause and think amongst the new “busyness” of working from home. Definitely looking forward to the opportunities this situation is giving and discovering who is behind it all.

  15. Thank you all for your comments. I am an essential worker and continue to work, so my day feel extra busy. I get behind reading these reflections but when I catch up I am so inspired and strengthened. May you all be blessed, and I thank you all for the strength and peace that you give me to carry on and action the love of Christ to those needing healthcare.

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