A grateful heart is the choicest of blessings

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.

Things My Father Taught Me

For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves, we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet... Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long? — Rebecca Harding Davis

My father was an adventurer at heart. No doubt, if he had lived at a different time, under different circumstances he would have sought wisdom at the feet of a Tibetan monk, and explored the ruins of Machu Pichu. As life would have it, the farthest he ever got was a castle in Ireland, and Korea during the war.

He never complained about not being able to fulfill his dreams, but rather satiated his curiosity by reading anything he could get his hands on: the story of Easter Island, the creation of Stonehenge, archeological investigations at the tomb of King Tut or burial mounds in the American Midwest.

This man with an eighth grade education would navigate the most difficult parts of the Old Testament with pleasure, and would then move on to the writings of Kahlil Gibran or the Art of Yoga.

He was engaged by the mysterious and was fond of reminding me that “nothing is more mysterious than life itself, and people, in particular!”

On one special Thanksgiving, as we set out the final dishes of food on a heavily ladened table, he mused philosophically, “You know Mary, life can be as full as this beautiful table or as empty as those pots in the kitchen. It all depends on where you’re standing.”

“Thank you, O enlightened one,” I replied, passing off a plate of stuffed celery.

He laughed and we all sat down to our last Thanksgiving dinner together.

Several years later, when the joy of the holidays continued to be diminished by the loss of my father and my mother, I was listening to the Thanksgiving homily offered by my pastor.

The image of my parents sitting at that bountiful table came flooding back to me, my father’s words still hanging in the air.

Through my reverie I could hear my pastor saying, “No matter how complete our dinner today may be, the truth is we are, as human beings, very incomplete.”

Using the image of empty baskets resting near the altar he continued, “Even on this festive day some of us have areas where we feel a certain emptiness: A loved one who is no longer there—we miss their presence and laughter; families separated by distance or circumstances; the illness or loneliness of someone we love; workplaces where people are alienated or where there is no forgiveness or peace, and, more sadly, families that experience the same reality.

“There are so many forms of emptiness in our lives—our existence is filled with baskets, little or big, of emptiness,” he said, reminding us of our tendency to fill the basket up with “so many things that are not of God, rather than holding the basket open and empty before God so he can fill it.”

And fill it he does, but we must take the time to “reflect quietly and honestly” and then “be overwhelmed by all that is ours.”

God is lavish in love, my pastor reflected, and generous in his outpouring of goodness.

Then he looked out across the congregation and said, “Today, I want to thank God for so many things, above all for my community, for the parish that I love very much and for all the ways we work together. You teach me that no one ever becomes poor by giving. No one really ever holds an empty basket for long when one gives with a generous heart.”

Wiping away some tears, I realized that I had been standing a long time in grief looking at the empty pots and missing the table of blessings set by God.

[[In-content Ad]]

Related Stories

For, after all, put it as we may to ourselves, we are all of us from birth to death guests at a table which we did not spread. The sun, the earth, love, friends, our very breath are parts of the banquet... Shall we think of the day as a chance to come nearer to our Host, and to find out something of Him who has fed us so long? — Rebecca Harding Davis

My father was an adventurer at heart. No doubt, if he had lived at a different time, under different circumstances he would have sought wisdom at the feet of a Tibetan monk, and explored the ruins of Machu Pichu. As life would have it, the farthest he ever got was a castle in Ireland, and Korea during the war.

He never complained about not being able to fulfill his dreams, but rather satiated his curiosity by reading anything he could get his hands on: the story of Easter Island, the creation of Stonehenge, archeological investigations at the tomb of King Tut or burial mounds in the American Midwest.

This man with an eighth grade education would navigate the most difficult parts of the Old Testament with pleasure, and would then move on to the writings of Kahlil Gibran or the Art of Yoga.

He was engaged by the mysterious and was fond of reminding me that “nothing is more mysterious than life itself, and people, in particular!”

On one special Thanksgiving, as we set out the final dishes of food on a heavily ladened table, he mused philosophically, “You know Mary, life can be as full as this beautiful table or as empty as those pots in the kitchen. It all depends on where you’re standing.”

“Thank you, O enlightened one,” I replied, passing off a plate of stuffed celery.

He laughed and we all sat down to our last Thanksgiving dinner together.

Several years later, when the joy of the holidays continued to be diminished by the loss of my father and my mother, I was listening to the Thanksgiving homily offered by my pastor.

The image of my parents sitting at that bountiful table came flooding back to me, my father’s words still hanging in the air.

Through my reverie I could hear my pastor saying, “No matter how complete our dinner today may be, the truth is we are, as human beings, very incomplete.”

Using the image of empty baskets resting near the altar he continued, “Even on this festive day some of us have areas where we feel a certain emptiness: A loved one who is no longer there—we miss their presence and laughter; families separated by distance or circumstances; the illness or loneliness of someone we love; workplaces where people are alienated or where there is no forgiveness or peace, and, more sadly, families that experience the same reality.

“There are so many forms of emptiness in our lives—our existence is filled with baskets, little or big, of emptiness,” he said, reminding us of our tendency to fill the basket up with “so many things that are not of God, rather than holding the basket open and empty before God so he can fill it.”

And fill it he does, but we must take the time to “reflect quietly and honestly” and then “be overwhelmed by all that is ours.”

God is lavish in love, my pastor reflected, and generous in his outpouring of goodness.

Then he looked out across the congregation and said, “Today, I want to thank God for so many things, above all for my community, for the parish that I love very much and for all the ways we work together. You teach me that no one ever becomes poor by giving. No one really ever holds an empty basket for long when one gives with a generous heart.”

Wiping away some tears, I realized that I had been standing a long time in grief looking at the empty pots and missing the table of blessings set by God.

[[In-content Ad]]
Have a news tip? Email [email protected] or Call/Text 360-922-3092

e-Edition


e-edition

Sign up


for our email newsletters

Weekly Top Stories

Sign up to get our top stories delivered to your inbox every Sunday

Daily Updates & Breaking News Alerts

Sign up to get our daily updates and breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox daily

Latest Stories


In Local News as of March 1, 2024
The following parishes, schools and organizations in the Diocese of Trenton have announced upcoming events:

Father Koch: The Temple was a sign of God’s presence
For Catholics, St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican is an iconic structure.

SJV wrestlers producing a season like no other in program history
It’s a question that can reasonably be asked: Is this the greatest wrestling “team” in St. John Vianney, Holmdel history?

'You will never wash my feet!'
Soon enough, we will be celebrating Holy Thursday,

Pope praises those assisting victims, clearing anti-personnel minefields
Anti-personnel mines are "devious" weapons...


The Evangelist, 40 North Main Ave., Albany, NY, 12203-1422 | PHONE: 518-453-6688| FAX: 518-453-8448
© 2024 Trenton Monitor, All Rights Reserved.