Spirituality of the Readings
I was out for a drive in the beautiful weather. The city had its usual non-country and somewhat ruined appearance, and I was merely doing shopping chores. Suddenly, unexpectedly, simple gratitude came upon me. Not earth-shaking, not the result of complicated reasoning, just a modest, gentle joy. I looked in admiration at my hands, which work reasonably well. I thought of the friends in my life, the special ones.
Without being prompted, I said out loud the words, “thank you.”
Later, this very quiet event had a conclusion: Gratitude is a springboard for giving back.
The primary motivation for giving is gratitude.
Another example, too personal I suppose. I have wide-set eyes. I have never been able to look through both lenses of any set of binoculars. For years my brother had set his mind to solving this problem and he came up with results that almost worked but never quite. Miraculously, even as I was writing this very reflection, a birthday present came in the mail. You guessed it, a set of binoculars.
But don’t get excited, these did not fit either. I could look out of either one lens or the other, not both at the same time. Hoping against hope I wrestled with widening the distance between the arms and it got complicated. By accident I narrowed the distance instead of widening it. Suddenly I could see with both eyes! These binoculars at their widest were too wide for me!!!! With its arms narrowed I could see, and that meant seeing in 3D as well!
I love the binoculars, of course, but more, I imagined my brother sending them to me, his face holding back a grin. I was grateful to him and for him. That gratitude makes me want to do something for him in return.
Put simply, the primary motivation for giving is gratitude.
How does this apply? We must ask why Amos responded so boldly in the First Reading.
Amos, the prophet, who was a shepherd and “dresser of sycamores,” found that God wanted him for a new job. No more watching the flock, no more pruning the trees. Now he was to be a visionary: someone who would prophesy to the people. Of course Amos dropped everything and went off to Bethel (about 10 miles North of Jerusalem) where he preached fire and brimstone against the way of life he saw in them. As a result the head priest of Bethel threw this rebel out of the city, but get this, Amos went south to Judah and sermonized there.
Perhaps the fierce, quiet landscape of the country had opened him and had let God give to him. In that case, his preaching was an act of gratitude.
We can say this same thing for the apostles in the Gospel. They were men of action so they probably did not actively notice that they were becoming grateful to Jesus. But they did have a growing realization of what he was giving to them, and quietly they loved him more and more. When he told them to go out and preach and banish demons, they knew that the mission fit them. He had found a way for them to begin seeing with both eyes. If so, their gratitude was the reason for going where he sent them.
Let’s us keep our eyes open too. We are very much loved.
And ready to be sent.
John Foley, SJ
**From Saint Louis University