Bishop's Column

Earthly and eternal blessings

Beauty is a gift that points us to eternity.  Beauty draws us out of time—out of ourselves—to consider the timelessness of God’s love.  The beauty of this world is an invitation to something far greater—an invitation to share the eternal beauty of the Blessed Trinity.
I thought about this a few weekends ago on the road to Lincoln.  I was driving home on a Sunday from celebrating Confirmation Masses in Grant, North Platte, and Wellfleet. I was struck by a rich, blazing sunset, which painted the sky with warm reds and oranges, setting the place for a rising harvest moon.
The sunset that day reminded me of a poem, Pied Beauty, by the Jesuit Gerald Manley Hopkins, a favorite poet, we learned recently, of Pope Francis. Hopkins wrote:

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
 
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                  Praise him.

Hopkins knew that to encounter beauty is to encounter a blessing from God.  I was grateful to God to encounter the beauty of that sunset.  But I was even more grateful to serve a God who wants to bless us.
This Thanksgiving, we should be thankful for the beauty we encounter.  We should be thankful for the families we’re given, for our material blessings, and for friendships we have. But we should be thankful, most of all, for what those things signify. 
God blesses us so that we know he’s made us for eternity.   God blesses us so that we know his love is abundant, inexhaustible, and unimaginable.  He blesses us so that we’ll trust in his mercy—the eternal blessing.
God speaks to us in signs and wonders and relationships.  He speaks to us through beauty, to be sure, and through family, and through encounters with truth, and goodness.  He speaks to us in the daily blessings of our lives.  But all earthly blessings—even our families—are pale reminders of the incredible, eternal love of God.
God’s truest expression of our eternal destiny is the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, his son.
This Thanksgiving, we should be thankful that the Word of God came into this world to redeem us, to make us holy, and to make us fit for eternal life. 
When we gather this Thanksgiving with family and friends, to count our blessings and to express gratitude for earthly things, we should point to their meaning in eternity.  When we recall our blessings, we should recall the one who blesses us.  When we give thanks for beauty, we should praise the author of all beauty. 
Let us praise God, for sunsets, and family, and feasting.  But let us praise him, especially, for the blessing of our eternal lives to come.

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