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Counting our Blessings

Weeping is a most human response and is found at the most tragic moments of our lives. Within salvation history, who among us cannot hear the weeping of mothers mourning the loss of their sons (the Holy Innocents) after they were slaughtered by order of King Herod? Similarly, what must it have been like to hear Jesus weep after learning that his friend (Lazarus) had died? In her book, Twenty Boy Summer, perhaps author Sarah Ockler describes it best: “Weeping is not the same thing as crying. It takes your whole body to weep, and when it’s over, you feel like you don’t have any bones left to hold you up.”

In the Gospel of Luke (19:41), we are informed that as Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying: “If this day you only knew what makes for peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes.” And so, Jesus wept for the City of Peace. For he knew that their rejection of his visitation would, in short time, lead to the total destruction of the Temple and city as they knew it.

One might ask: Why didn’t they recognize Jesus? Hadn’t he performed miracles in their midst? Did he not proclaim that the kingdom of God was at hand? Was he not the fulfillment of the prophets? The logical explanation is that they wanted more than a carpenter’s son. They desired a king in his fullness. They desired someone that lived in an impressive palace, was seated on a throne, and wore a golden crown on his head. And so, when Jesus was ultimately led to Calvary, the most defining moment in human history, the majority of Jerusalem’s residents didn’t even notice. For they were too busy attending to their daily concerns. For them, Jesus was yet another person being led to his crucifixion. But he was certainly not the promised Messiah, Son of God, or Savior of the world. Unnoticed and unrecognized—Jesus wept.

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, each of us has much to be thankful for. Although we have many cultural and economic challenges, we continue to enjoy the highest standard of living in the world. But despite this, in our quest for more, we often fail to recognize and fully appreciate the gifts we have been given until they have been taken from us.

  • Ask someone who has recently learned that they have been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
  • Ask someone who has recently lost their job while the bills pile up.
  • Ask a parent who has suffered the death of a child.
  • Or ask Jesus. How must he have felt when all but a handful of “faithful followers” abandoned him during his Passion?

Given all of this, we should take refuge in lyrics written by Irving Berlin for the 1954 movie, White Christmas:

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep,
I count my blessings instead of sheep,
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

In the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we are reminded of a most perfect recognition and visitation. As Mary greeted her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s unborn child (John the Baptist) recognized and leaped for joy at the presence of Jesus and his divine love within Mary’s womb. As we gather for our Thanksgiving visitations, may we pray that we come to recognize the presence of Jesus in our families and friends amidst every joy and sorrow. By doing so, we will not only have acknowledged Jesus as the giver of all blessings, but that he has also given us the graces to count them, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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