Let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, . . . and ~be, ye, thankful. — Colossians 3:15.
Of the several great lessons contained in today’s Epistle, the one most insisted on and brought out is that of thankfulness and joyfulness in the service of God.
In the labors of St. Paul (and his labors were more abundant than all the Apostles), in his frequent tribulations and crosses, he never ceased giving thanks in all things—nor did he ever tire of inculcating this same duty on the first Christians. If, then, my brethren, thankfulness and joyfulness are such a great part of religion, it would be well this morning to see if they be characteristic of our service. We have a multitude of reasons for being thankful to God, if we but thought of them—the gifts of nature—life, health, strength, the pleasures and gratifications of the mind, learning, objects of interest, of study and beauty, both in nature and art, the pleasures of home, the joys of friendship. These are real and great benefits ; they are causes of joy and motives of thankfulness. Our good God intended us to find enjoyment in the moderate use of them, not, indeed, as ends in themselves, but as means to our one great end. And so he has spread the charm of beauty over this place of our sojourn and made it pleasant and interesting, lest we lose heart and become sad, and languish on our journey to heaven.
But to speak of higher gifts and benefits: What motives of joy and thankfulness ought we not to find in the knowledge of God, his truth, mercy, and goodness as made known to us in the Scripture and in his Divine Son, our Saviour and friend, the God-Man ; in the gift of the faith, the spiritual riches of the church and the sacraments, his mercies to us personally—blessings on our labors, the removal of dangers from our paths, his gracious forgiveness of our sins, time and again. Then, too, what we expect and through his mercy count on for the future—the joys of heaven, those delights which pass our understanding. The life of heaven will be pure joy, and its one occupation thankfulness. Surely, then, this life should be a figure and foretaste of it; and so St. Paul thought, for he bids us “be thankful,” “rejoice and rejoice always” ; singing in grace in our hearts, and in every word and work giving thanks to God.
It is plain that, since God has done his part in bestowing the benefits in such abundant measure, we should do ours in returning thanks, for gratitude is the correlative of benefit. It is equally plain that the true religion is joyful. Now, is such our religion? Is this the way we act? Is it the way we consider God’s service? We see, I think, more anxious and sad faces than thankful and glad ones; and I fear that the joyfulness of the latter does not come generally from the reasons I have given. It comes too often from worldly causes, from success in temporal things, from hopes and prospects which relate to indifferent things, if they are not dangerous and positively bad. Whereas the common idea of religion is that it is an unpleasant, sad, uphill sort of a thing, which imposes restraints upon us, and, far from being a cause of thankfulness and joy, is a great interference with the pleasure of life. Pious people, too, are regarded as dull, simple, spiritless creatures, quite the opposite of joyful.
This is all wrong, all false, and, if it be our religion, then we have not the true religion, at least practically. For as God’s benefits are real and great, so our thanks and joy should be in them and correspond to them. Religion, being our highest duty, should be and can be our highest pleasure. God says it is, and he is truth ; those who have tried say the same. “What shall I render to God for all he hath rendered to me ?”—” better one day in thy courts than a thousand years in the tents of sinners ” — ” taste and see how sweet the Lord is.” Our consciences and experience bear out the same truth ; for surely evil cannot be compared to good in fulness, in intensity; and, above all, it will not wear, it will not last, and it leaves us dissatisfied, fearful, sad. The pleasure and joy of a good life to a good man even here are far greater than the pleasure of sin to a sinner.
Let us, then, make up our minds, once for all, that not only is religion the most necessary, but the wisest and the happiest thing for us. Let us serve God with thankfulness, both for what he has done and will do for us, if we are faithful. If he has done so much in this state of probation, exile, and punishment, what will he not do when the time of reward and enjoyment arrives. Surely, considering what we are and what we have done, the pains and crosses bear no proportion to the benefits, and we have cause even in present labors to be thankful and in every word and work to give him praise through Jesus Christ our Lord.
An Excerpt From :
Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul. Five Minute Sermons for Low Masses on All Sundays of the Year. Vol. 2. [S.l.]: Catholic Publication Society, 1886. Print. starts pg 494