The keynote speaker at a retreat I once attended said that, when asked how he is doing, he nevers responds “fine,” as most people say automatically, but rather “I’m blessed!” He reasoned that, since God’s blessings are constant even during difficult times, he would never be lying.
While most of us default to counting only our material blessings, the Lord continually bestows upon us numerous spiritual advantages that are unfailing. Saint Paul lists seven of these in the second reading today, which takes the form of a Jewish hymn of praise or blessing (berakah). In particular, the hymn proclaims that God has (i) chosen us through election (ii) to be his adopted sons and daughters, (iii) pouring out his grace and favor on us. The King of Kings has (iv) redeemed us, (v) revealed “the mystery of his will” that all should be gathered to him and saved, and (vi) made us co-heirs to eternal life. The final blessing is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who marks and protects believers as God’s own possession.
The nearly singular focus on the presence or absence of temporal benefits alone can lead to a crisis of faith when poverty, illness, and other worldly struggles strike. Yet even when it seems that everything once concrete in our lives is crumbling around us, remembering these spiritual blessings through which the Lord immeasurably pours out his favor will bring us to the other side of despair. Counting these blessings, we can say every single day with all truthfulness that we are truly blessed.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
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