In Thoughts in Solitude, Thomas Merton tells us one very important thing: God is the being who creates all things and holds them in existence. Merton’s understanding of God as the Creator and the rest of creation as being completely dependent upon He Who Is is sustained powerfully through the pages of this work. Merton sees his own life and existence as gift and grace received from the Most High. As such, when we turn ourselves completely over to God who is the source of our very being, we can more clearly see the goodness within ourselves and to realize that such goodness is not own own, but is received from Goodness Itself.
As our family was sitting at Mass yesterday and our deacon was giving the homily, I looked at my daughter crawling about on the floor while I had my one arm around my wife, and one thought came to mind: how undeserving! No, it was not me thinking how my wife and child are undeserving of me; rather, it is me who is undeserving of them. As we drove home from Church, I told my wife my thought and told her that I have done nothing to deserve her or Madison. The conversation led to the both of us realizing that we have done nothing in our lives to deserve anything that we have, even though at most times we do like to fool ourselves into thinking that everything we have is a direct result of our own doing and competence. In fact, we have no “rights” to anything that we claim as ours unless it was by God’s goodness towards us. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t saying that we didn’t have to work for the things we have, but we are admitting to the fact that those opportunities would not have been available without God’s goodness in allowing us to be presented with them, or to give us courage to take them on, or to give us strength to continue to carry them out.
It is very easy, friends, for us to fool ourselves into thinking that our accomplishments and successes are our own. But we should remember Merton’s wise words to us:
To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.