And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered. —Isaiah 56:6–8
Being grateful is a first small step toward not feeling guilty about the good things we have. As we realize that our lives are a gift, sometimes simply a gift of where and when we were born, we can let go of the defensiveness that leads us to believe we’ve earned and deserve what we have. But being grateful doesn’t means simply being content with who we are and what we have. Nor is it a precursor to complacency. Being grateful makes us more aware of the people around us, those who have helped us but also those who need our help.
Being grateful reminds us that we don’t do anything entirely on our own. Many of the great Hebrew prophets wrote to a people experiencing exile. At different times in our lives we may be able to identify with that experience. We might be stuck at home when we want to be out. We might be stuck at a party when we’d rather be at home with just one or two dearly loved friends. We might be in a job that keeps us far away from our families for long periods of time.
When my mom was dying and trapped in a kind of emotional dementia, I discovered a whole new understanding of the line in the Salve Regina prayer that says, “And after this our exile…” I could see how much she was living in a kind of exile, away from the home and family she had known all her life and not yet in the eternal home with the God for whom she had longed all her life. A true home is a place of inclusion and love where all are welcome, not a fortress to defend against the enemy. Our coming home challenges us to recognize that everyone is a child of the one God.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Through Isaiah, God says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Let this be your prayer today.
A SIMPLE GIFT
Learn something new today about a person or group of people not like you in some way. Even acquiring a little knowledge about others brings us closer together. If you’re feeling timid today, you can stick to simple research. If you’re feeling brave or adventurous, make plans to meet with someone new. Remember the old saying that strangers are friends you haven’t yet met.
—This blog was taken from the book Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent