As we enter the Twelve Days of Christmas, the words of Dickens’ Tiny Tim readily resonate at this special time of year for it is so convenient for so many to fail to see the blessings of daily life during the often monotonous grind of ordinary time. To be sure, some of us may seem more blessed than others and perhaps there is an arguable relativism to our comparative stations in life. It’s easy to garner envy for those who are wealthy and powerful but despite their material gains and successes, we are all in need of something beyond power or gold. For those with higher levels of creature comforts, we may find pity, sorrow or even feel guilt because of those who are wanting and struggling while they, perhaps without our realizing it, find comfort and solace in an unshakable faith.
The post-pagan understanding of a blessing is “to be favored by God.” The modern meaning of the term may have been influenced in translations of the Bible into Old English during the process of “Christianization” to translate the term benedīcere meaning to “speak well of,” resulting in meanings such as to “praise” or “extol” or to speak of or to wish well.
It is no secret that I strive to be a man of faith. Perhaps struggle is a more apt description because faith is merely a personal choice. Like some of you, I fight an almost daily battle to make sense of this existence and the circumstances that surround us. Depending on one’s state of mind, it can be overwhelming to even attempt reconcile good and evil. It just can’t be done.
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Faith is trust. You either have it or you don’t. It often seems incongruous to trust in anything that cannot be seen or perceived directly by our senses. After all, our trust is broken time and time again from that disappointing moment when we realized the truth about Santa or the tooth fairy and on from there as years of broken promises accumulate. Our personal relationships and behavior test our trust for ourselves and others over the years. It is easy to become jaded and skeptical.
So what about this notion of blessings? Are we favored by God and we just don‘t realize it? I suppose the answer all depends on your acceptance or rejection of faith. Some may believe that everything which happens is purely random without plan or purpose. I don’t believe that our lives are a series of coincidences and events of probability. Believing otherwise is contrary to an ordered universe. Without waxing metaphysical, I believe in and accept St. Thomas Aquinas’ notions of natural law that concludes that God has in His intellect an idea by which He governs the world. We are supposed to use our human gifts of reason and understanding to perpetuate order and prevent chaos. Perhaps we cannot bestow blessings upon ourselves but staying focused on God’s will instead of our own helps.
Blessings often come disguised as disasters, illnesses or even the death of a loved one. How is it possible that such negative events might bestow us with anything except grief, misery and sorrow. Willingness and acceptance come to mind; willingness to accept current circumstances and patience to see what is yet to come. If we are watchful, the blessing eventually appears.
After the election last month, I was gravely disappointed for several days. My disenchantment has gradually dissolved into trust, not for our elected officials, but in God. There is no other option for me. I either turn my life and my will over to God or I will remain stuck in misery and fear. I prefer some semblance of happiness and contentment over gloom even though I have to sometimes work harder to attain the former. But joy should not require work to achieve and it really doesn’t. It can be found easily enough in so much of this world’s grandeur and wonder. It’s been said that happiness is an inside job meaning it is really nothing more than a decision, a choice just as Abraham Lincoln meant when he stated that “most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
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Like an aging masterpiece, delight in this day is often hidden beneath decades of accumulated filth and immoral grime. We only need to find an efficient solvent to remove it to see the glorious creation beneath it. My solvent consists of faith and my attitude. Regrettably we cannot restore our world to what it was. When you think about it, even a so-called restored masterpiece is not authentic because without reliable photographic or other evidence of its original appearance, the restorer can only rely on speculation or supposition to attain a reasonable facsimile of the actual creation. Studying history as Churchill taught us, will not only help us to avoid the pitfalls of our past but help us keep reason and morality in the forefront of our existence, conserving our sacred form of government.
We are blessed whether you want to recognize it or not. Although our personal freedoms seem to be shrinking and our country remains on a crash course for disaster, we have this moment to enjoy. And, if we have faith in God, all will unfold as it should according to His plan and in His time. Even if it all comes tumbling down, (as it most notably failed to do on 12/21/12), I still have this moment, and all the others before it, to remember the spectrum the blessings that have been bestowed on me. I hope you might find the same is true for you.
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