The Letter of St. Paul to Titus, 3:3-7:
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
As I have indicated, spiritual reading was one of the main activities of my trip. I read five or six books from cover to cover, and bits and pieces of several others. Two of the books I read were of particular importance in shaping what I am attempting here.
The first was Heliotropium, by Fr. Jeremias Drexelius, S. J. This book was published in 1627 and, to quote the cover, it is “The Famous Classic on Conformity of the Human Will to the Divine.” I will draw from it in later reflections that focus more closely on that topic.
The second is Love’s Reply, by Cajetan Esser, O.F.M, and Englebert Grau, O.F.M.
I first came across this book early in my Franciscan journey. At times I would go to the convent of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka, IN and sit in their chapel to pray. These Sisters host the local Secular Franciscan fraternity I belong to. Each Sister has an individual pew in the chapel where she sits regularly for prayer and Mass. Many keep personal reflection materials in these pews. One day I sat down and noticed this book, pulled it out, and began reading from it.
I was immediately captivated and knew I had found something special. The book was first published in German in 1960 and was translated to English in 1962. It was derived from various articles that had previously been published independently. Cajetan Esser, born in 1913 and reposed in 1978, was a renowned Franciscan historian and scholar. The version of Francis’ “Praises of God” that appeared in the last chapter is his direct translation from the original.
As soon as I began reading this book, I knew I wanted a copy for my personal library. Unfortunately, it is out of print and hard to find. When I searched Amazon, no copies were available. When I searched Alibris.com, one of the main online clearinghouses for used books, one copy was available for $200. I did not make that expenditure, although there are times I think it would have been worthwhile. (I just checked Alibris now and there was a copy available for $20, so I ordered it to give to my fraternity.)
I waited and my patience somehow paid off when one of my fraternity sisters decided to give away some books she had. Amazingly, as I looked at her shelf, I saw she had a copy. I told her of its value and rarity, but she insisted on letting me have it anyway. I am grateful for the poverty she embraced that day because it meant this book was available for my journey.
This reflection and the next two are directly inspired by the first chapter of that book. I just reread it this morning and part of me thinks I should ditch my entire effort and just use that one chapter to convey everything this work hopes to communicate. I am not sure I can do better. The chapter is only nine pages long, but it touches on everything I seek to develop.
That first chapter focuses on gratitude, the definition of Penance as Francis understood it, and self-denial. What follows in this reflection closely follows the discussion on gratitude. The definition of Penance will be the subject of the next chapter, and then self-denial. For all I will provide multiple quotations directly from the Love’s Reply text.
I was wondering yesterday how I would write a full chapter on the idea of gratitude, but now I think I have the answer. I am mostly going to steal it from Love’s Reply.
Esser and Grau introduce the connection between gratitude and Penance by referring to chapter twenty-three of The Earlier Rule. They do not present it in its entirety as I am, but they quote from it liberally. In the first volume of Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, this text appears in versified form and is five pages long. Love’s Reply refers to these words as an “Exhortation of Prayer and Thanksgiving.” To save space, I am changing the form, but I encourage you to seek out the original to get the full effect. It is Francis at his absolute best.
All powerful, most holy, Almighty and supreme God, Holy and just Father, Lord King of heaven and earth, we thank You for Yourself for through Your holy will and through Your only Son with the Holy Spirit You have created everything spiritual and corporal and, after making us in Your own image and likeness, You placed us in paradise.
Through our own fault we fell.
We thank You for as through Your Son You created us, so through Your holy love with which You loved us You brought about His birth as true God and true man by the glorious, ever-virgin, most blessed, holy Mary and you willed to redeem us captives through His cross and blood and death.
We thank You for Your Son Himself will come again in the glory of His majesty to send into the eternal fire the wicked ones who have not done penance and have not known You and to say to all those who have known You, adored You, and served You in penance: “Come, you blessed of my Father, receive the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”
Because all of us, wretches and sinners, are not worthy to pronounce Your name, we humbly ask our Lord Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, in Whom you were well pleased, together with the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, to give You thanks, for everything as it pleases You and Him, Who always satisfies You in everything, through Whom You have done so much for us, Alleluia!
Because of Your love, we humbly beg the glorious Mother, the most blessed, ever-virgin Mary, Blessed Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, all the choirs of the blessed seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominations, principalities, powers, virtues, angels, archangels, Blessed John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Peter, Paul, the blessed patriarchs and prophets, the innocents, apostles, evangelists, disciples, the martyrs, confessors and virgins, the blessed Elijah and Henoch, all the saints who were, who will be, and who are to give You thanks for these things, as it pleases You, God true and supreme, eternal and living, with Your most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, world without end, Amen, Alleluia!
All us lesser brothers, useless servants, humbly ask and beg those who wish to serve the Lord God within the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and all the following orders: priests, deacons, subdeacons, acolytes, exorcists, lectors, porters, and all clerics, all religious men and women, all penitents and youths, the poor and the needy, kings and princes, workers and farmers, servants and masters, all virgins, continent and married women, all lay people, men and women, all children, adolescents, young and old, the healthy and the sick, all the small and the great, all people, races, tribes and tongues, all nations and all peoples everywhere on earth, who are and who will be to persevere in the true faith and in penance for otherwise no one will be saved.
With our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, with our whole strength and fortitude, with our whole understanding, with all our powers, with every effort, every affection, every feeling, every desire and wish, let us all love the Lord our God Who has given and gives to each one of us our whole body, our whole soul, and our whole life, Who has created, redeemed and will save us by His mercy alone, Who did and does everything good for us, miserable and wretched, rotten and foul, ungrateful and evil ones.
Therefore, let us desire nothing else, let us want nothing else, let nothing else please us and cause us delight except our Creator, Redeemer and Savior, the only true God, Who is the fullness of good, all good, every good, the true and supreme good, Who alone is good, merciful, gentle, delightful, and sweet, Who alone is holy, just, true, holy, and upright, Who alone is kind, innocent, clean, from Whom, through Whom and in Whom is all pardon, all grace, all glory of all penitents and just ones, of all the blessed rejoicing together in heaven.
Therefore, let nothing hinder us, nothing separate us, nothing come between us.
Wherever we are, in every place, at every hour, at every time of day, every day and continually, let all of us truly and humbly believe, hold in our heart and love, honor, adore, serve, praise and bless, glorify and exalt, magnify and give thanks to the Most High and Supreme Eternal God, Trinity and Unity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Creator of all, Savior of all Who believe and hope in Him, and love Him, Who without beginning and end, is unchangeable, invisible, indescribable, ineffable, incomprehensible, unfathomable, blessed, praiseworthy, glorious, exalted, sublime, most high, gentle, lovable, delightful, and totally desirable above all else, forever.
It is a different experience to type these words instead of just reading them. It takes a different level of concentration and awareness, and then, in the proofreading, a different sense of understanding emerges. I debated whether to include the entire text, but I am glad I did. You might think about typing or writing it out yourself to boost your appreciation. Or at least try saying the words out loud.
If you review the words closely, you will find all the themes of the beginning of the Gospel of John. Francis addresses our created nature, our wretched sinfulness, and the Mercy of God in sending His Son to secure our redemption. The themes of returning God’s Love wholeheartedly and being a believer are present. What took me five thousand plus words to describe, he achieved in about eight hundred and much more poetically than I could ever hope to achieve.
Plus, Francis added an overwhelming sense of gratitude and thankfulness. He begins by thanking God for Himself. He then thanks God for our creation and for the gift of salvation through the Son. And then He thanks God for the Son a second time in relation to the gift of the Kingdom that has been prepared for those who practice Penance.
And then Francis proceeds to ask every holy person or entity that has ever existed, does exist, or will exist, starting with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Mary, and working his way down from there, to thank God on our behalf because we are too miserable and wretched to be able to thank Him properly for the underserved Mercy He showers upon us.
Finally, he reinforces the goodness of God as he “humbly asks and begs those who wish to serve the Lord God within the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church ……… to persevere in the true faith and in Penance for otherwise no one will be saved,” while simultaneously encouraging us “to love, honor, adore ……… the Lord our God with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind, ………”
Love’s Reply takes this prayer and uses it to establish gratitude as the only proper response to the overwhelming Mercy of God. Gratitude is the fountain that ultimately allows Penance to flourish. These quotes demonstrate the tenor of what Love’s Reply works to convey regarding gratitude and thanksgiving:
“The very starting point of our life of penance is naught else than overflowing gratitude for the benefits which the mercy of the Father has bestowed on us in his true and holy love through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“What God in his goodness and mercy has done for us and continues to do is the beginning and starting point of any obligation on our part. The life of penance, like the whole Christian life, is thus the grateful answer of man to the call of grace, to God’s saving mercy toward us. It is from this gratitude, to the degree that it is true and heartfelt, and not primarily from our own will or desire, that there arises our obligation to lead a life of penance.”
“Francis fulfilled his happy duty of returning thanks for the marvels and wonders of God’s love not only by his words, but even more by his whole life. His “life of penance” is the total and unreserved answer of a heart full of gratitude for all that God has bestowed upon us in and through Christ.”
I want to call special attention to one specific idea here:
“It is from this gratitude, to the degree that it is true and heartfelt, and not primarily from our own will or desire, that there arises our obligation to lead a life of penance.”
The starting point of my life of Penance is not my weak and often inadequate will. I do not wake up and decide on my own one morning that I am going to suddenly begin a life of Penance. That decision does not happen in a vacuum. Left to my own devices, I would never choose such a life. It is too hard, and a limited and underdeveloped human perception would not conceive it, let alone countenance it. The worldly perspective of my human will would never arrive at the pressing need to embrace Penance on its own.
Only the big picture of salvation (the beginning point of my journey from the last reflection) can allow me to conceive the role that Penance must play in a well-organized existence. I must embrace my status as a creature. I must accept my sinfulness. I must recognize my need for help and believe in God’s prodigiously Loving response to that need. Only when I wholly internalize and actuate these insights can I develop the gratitude that then leads to an acute need and keen desire for Penance.
In the words of Francis’ prayer, I am “miserable and wretched, rotten and foul, ungrateful and evil.” After accepting this, I instinctively wonder what consequences ought to follow from my wretchedness.
If I am honest with myself, I recognize that a life lived in such a state deserves punishment. If those qualities persist in me then eternal damnation is what I should receive as my reward. I would not expect second or third or hundredth chances from my Creator. At some point, I would expect Him to say enough is enough, and off you go, out of my sight, and out of my awareness forever.
But He does not do that. Instead, He Lovingly calls me to conversion with no limitations and no restrictions. He will call me back not hundreds of times, but thousands of times, even millions of times, if that is what it takes to secure my redemption and salvation.
The only proper response I can give to such a display of steadfast Love is unequivocal, unambiguous, and unmistakable gratitude.
It takes this enhanced perception for me to fully desire a reverential disposition toward Penance. If I have any other motivation, especially including a willful decision made on what is otherwise a whim, then the commitment will not stick. This “true and heartfelt” level of gratitude is a prerequisite if I want to reach the first destination on my road to eternal encounter with God. To reach Penance, I must fuel my journey with the Love that this sense of gratitude will reflexively inspire in me.
All that said, my wretchedness still means I am incapable of offering proper thanks for everything that God has done in Christ for me. Even if I accept the points above, both my will and my gratitude are still tainted by my wickedness. I am too corrupted, too mired in the habits of sin, and simply too human to achieve gratitude on my own. I do not possess enough guile, astuteness, strength, or fortitude to succeed by my will alone. I need help.
If I have already acknowledged that I need God’s help to achieve salvation, then I can safely assume I need His help to achieve this attitude of gratitude as well.
Francis calls on the whole church and the full court of Heaven for assistance in offering proper thanks. The assistance that Francis beseeches is meant to secure just what I need, the help and blessings of God. Francis wants all the Holy in Heaven to pray for and with his Order as they seek to render proper thanks for everything God has done and continues to do for them. I would be wise to do the same. I should seek help from this same cohort if I hope to develop and express a thorough sense of thankfulness and gratitude on my journey.
Remember that even though Francis wrote these words as part of a Rule for those who would enter his religion, he did not exempt himself. He joined his followers in adopting this way of life and was much more stringent with himself than he was with them. He not only spoke to his followers about gratitude, but he also provided an impeccable example of what gratitude lived out looked like. He did not simply point out to them that they were wicked, etc., but he signified that he shared these traits. The position of minority that he insisted on meant that he also saw himself as a miserable wretch in dire need of God’s Mercy. He, despite being one of the greatest saints in history, worked tirelessly right alongside his brothers to seek and adopt the bearing of gratitude and then Penance that he called his followers to.
The final quote speaks of Francis “fulfilling his happy duty ………. not only by his words, but even more by his whole life.” The example that Francis set for his followers was not wishy-washy. His entire existence reflected his gratitude and the totality of his commitment. He was all-in, and his passionate dedication did not cause him grief, but led to joy and happiness.
As I ask the assistance of the cohort of Heaven for help on these beginning steps of my journey, I can specifically add Francis to my petition. I can be sure that he is not above me in this endeavor. Instead, he is my brother as I seek to fulfill the calling that he sets before me.
As the language of my profession asserts, he is my help.
May the ……. intercession ……. of our Holy Father Francis ……. always be my help so that I may reach the goal of perfect Christian Love.
I want to align myself with Francis. I want my devotion to be as complete as his and I want to be joyful in the gratitude that I express in thanks for everything that God has accomplished for me.
Gratitude must not be something I give lip service to and then move on from. It must be at the core of my being. It must always reside in my awareness. It should spark in me an attitude of Penance that imbues my entire existence with an unquenchable desire to be converted from miserable wretch to saint.
Gratitude was the first step in the conversion of Francis. I hope it does something similar for me.
My citing of Francis’ Praises of God in the last chapter and his “Exhortation of Prayer and Thanksgiving” in this one reminds me that to be aligned with him I must visit the stories of his life again and again. I need to be consistently reminded of the passion he had for the entire religion he established. If I am to follow his charism, I must know it well.
As I traveled, along with the works I mentioned above, I also focused on reading various biographical works on St. Francis. I had not recently read The Life of St. Francis by Thomas of Celano, so I read it again. I also read The Legend of the Three Companions and The Assisi Compilation. And I read all of Francis’ own writings as compiled in the first volume of St. Francis of Assisi: Early Documents.
When you have the luxury to do a cross section of spiritual reading all at once, the connectedness of the works jumps out at you. The impact of each work is magnified by what is contained in the others. I found this especially true when I was reading the various lives of St. Francis. Even though many of the stories were repeated from work to work, they grew and were enhanced each time I read them. My appreciation for Francis’ depth of commitment to gratitude, Penance, and Poverty was especially enriched by reading his words and the stories of his life.
The dedication present in his life is so far beyond what I can muster it is bewildering. I often daydream about becoming a saint, but when I read about the accomplishment of St. Francis and his overwhelming holiness, I am reminded of my own foolishness. The idea that I could begin to approach his devotion seems so far-fetched that I find it hard to imagine where to start.
And yet, start I must. Francis’ “Exhortation to Prayer and Thanksgiving” served as the starting point for Esser and Grau as they composed Love’s Reply, which means it is also a suitable starting point for me. As I read about Francis’ attitude toward Creation, his thankfulness for Penance and the other gifts that “God gave him,” and his obsession with the life, and particularly the Poverty of Jesus, I can empathize with the inestimable feeling of gratitude that Francis experienced in direct response to the plan initiated by God to ensure the salvation of every human being created through His Love.
This “true and heartfelt” gratitude begin my movement toward Penance, forcing me to accept and affirm this corollary; it is not my will and not my work, a solely human work, which enables my salvation. Instead, salvation is enabled by the action of God with some fortunate help from the prayers of the entire church and the full court of Heaven.
Depending on myself for my salvation would leave me with a very dismal outlook where eternity is concerned. If I thought I could achieve redemption through my human action that would be a flawed assertion of my ego in direct opposition to the plan of God. It would be sinful for me to think that I am in command of my destiny when I think about achieving the goal of Heaven.
Instead, it is a great comfort to accept that God is in charge. It runs contrary to the culture to cede control of anything to anyone. But in fact, I am not conceding anything. I am simply recognizing and accepting the true nature of my human condition. I never had control of this situation and never could. It could never be realistic for me to expect to chart my own path to redemption because I cannot expect to avoid or overcome my own abysmal and sinful narrowmindedness.
Always, I have been at God’s Mercy.
It is easy to think of His Love and His Mercy as the same thing, but deeper reflection suggests that Mercy somehow, as mysterious as it might seem, extends His Love further even though His Love is already all-encompassing. It sounds absurd, but the exceptional thing He has done in removing the initial responsibility for my eternal well-being from my control seems to go beyond Love. Even though it seems improbable, Mercy somehow makes His Love greater than it already is.
In His Wisdom, I do not have to labor at figuring out the detailed mechanics of salvation. There is nothing for me to ascertain, or discover, or construct. Life appears to be a series of challenges, but it can be simple if I adhere to the course He has established. I need to believe, to be obedient, and to follow with a humble and loving attitude a path ordained by His Mercy that begins with gratitude and flows into Penance.
This pathway is initiated and detailed in the Gospels. If the multiple sources I read about Francis during my trip make anything clear, it is that all his followers are called to a gospel life. The first sentence of the Later Rule says this:
The Rule and Life of the Lesser Brothers is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience ……..
Article four of the OFS Rule says this:
The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.
Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel.
There cannot be a simpler response to God’s Mercy: Pursue the path to salvation laid out by the example Jesus set and the Word that He spoke!
Because He anticipates my frailty, His Mercy also causes Him to send me The Holy Spirit as an Advocate to help me remember, understand, and follow His lead. He has thought of everything. I have all that I need. God has taken the primary burden of achieving salvation away from me and opened a pathway to Heaven that I can be sure I have the means to travel. He knows what I am capable of, what I can and cannot realistically achieve. Beyond that, He Loves me to such an extent that He could never chart a course for me that is inaccessible.
I already touched on the final quote from Love’s Reply regarding the wholeness of Francis’ gratitude, but I also want to re-emphasize the words “happy duty.” I want to acknowledge that Francis’ approach to gratitude is linked to his approach to joy. God’s plan for our salvation should not just engender gratitude in us, but also joy.
Again, it may conflict with current cultural conventions, but I should be joyful that I am not in primary control of my salvation. If I was, and I admitted my woeful shortcomings regarding my ability to achieve salvation on my own, that would be a source of great sorrow. I would have to accept the inevitability of my failure to achieve an eternity spent in the blissful presence of God in Heaven.
But, if I believe in His Mercy, this sorrow is precluded. It is replaced by a joyful sense of peace that resonates and resounds through the core of my being.
His Creation of me. His Love for me. The sending of His Son to redeem me. His Mercy.
All result in an overflowing of joy and gratitude in my heart that, as Francis indicates, my human capabilities are woefully insufficient to express.
As I mentioned above, one of the benefits of reading multiple spiritual works in concert is that they tend to enhance each other. The entire conception of these reflections is dependent on the interaction of the different spiritual readings I undertook. The themes in Love’s Reply resonated with Heliotropium, which resonated with the books on Lectio Divina, which resonated with the stories and words of St. Francis. These varied works came together to form an integrated set of ideas that is more expansive than any individual component.
This beneficial effect also extends to the reading of Scripture. As I immersed myself in the reading of these various spiritual books, I found that I was more fully aware of the Scripture I was also reading. Connections became apparent that I might have otherwise missed.
I have already cited how the parables about seeds in chapter four of Mark intersected with and inspired my first reflection. In the second reflection, the story from chapter five of Mark about the woman healed by touching Jesus’ cloak was just what I needed to fully communicate the importance of belief that I was trying to express.
As I began this reflection, I moved to chapter six of Mark. This chapter begins with Jesus teaching in the synagogue in His hometown. The residents are amazed at His Wisdom and the miraculous healings He performs. At the same time, they take offense at Him. Jesus is in turn amazed at their lack of faith and as a result, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. “
This further reinforces the assertions I have made about belief. Jesus responds to belief, but He is also restricted by disbelief. I am sure He has the power to heal anyone He wishes, but it is more important to understand the primacy of belief than it is for every possible miracle to be performed. Thus, a lack of belief leads Jesus to impose a constraint on Himself as an extension of the teaching He hopes I will accept.
But this story also speaks about gratitude, or more precisely, ingratitude. The people of Jesus’ hometown are aware of the Wisdom and Power possessed by Jesus. They have witnessed His teaching and His miraculous healings. When I place myself in the scene as part of my prayer routine, I am also amazed at Jesus. My wonder leads me to adopt an attitude of irresistible gratitude. I can identify that the Love inherent in the healing work of Jesus also applies to me. The seed planted in the story of the woman from chapter five fell on fertile ground. My ability to appreciate the actions of Jesus in this story is a sign that it is growing. If my progress remains steady, it will come to full fruition.
However, the people of his hometown reject this seed. It is incomprehensible to me why they adopt an attitude of such woeful ingratitude toward Him, but this is what happened.
It also happens in a similar story from chapter three of Mark. Jesus is again teaching in a synagogue. A man is present with a withered hand. There are also Pharisees present, waiting to see whether Jesus will heal the man on the Sabbath. Jesus asks them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath, to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” He then heals the man. In response, the Pharisees begin to plot against Him.
The Pharisees are guilty of the very thing they wish to condemn Jesus for and more. They assert that Jesus has violated the Sabbath by healing on the day of rest, yet they begin to plot against Jesus on that same Sabbath. Check the quote from Jesus again. He knows exactly what is happening. When He uses the word “kill,” He presages the sin of the Pharisees. Jesus’ supposed violation of the law was an act of healing goodness. Theirs goes well beyond ingratitude and becomes an act of “evil.”
Again, how can this be? How can the Pharisees witness the healing power and goodness of Jesus and respond with disbelief and ingratitude?
To find the answer, I must put all the Scripture together. The parable of the sower, Mark chapter four, speaks directly to what I am witnessing. “The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”
The people of Jesus’ hometown and the Pharisees are blinded by their worldliness. They are completely unaware of the seed that Jesus is offering them. This seed has fallen in a thicket of thorns planted and carefully tended by the opponents of Jesus, who never understand how flawed their garden is. They wish to choke Jesus with the same thorns that blind them. The seed that Jesus tried to give them finds itself completely thwarted.
I want to invite you to experiment with these connections yourself. Return to the quote from Titus at the head of this chapter. This quote is read for the Mass at Night and the Mass at Dawn on Christmas day. It is another intersection between the writing I was considering after my trip and the Scripture I was encountering as I moved through life.
Spend some time with these words. Does this piece of Scripture capture the human sinfulness that has been discussed at length in the last two reflections? Does it support the idea that gratitude is not initiated by human will or works (“not because of righteous things we had done”), but by the kindness and Love of God? Note especially the appearance of the words, “His Mercy.” Are my conclusions about His Mercy consistent with this passage?
Compare the passage to what you have read so far in these reflections. Does the combination of the two deepen your understanding of each individually?
Then focus on the last phrase. “…. we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” I have stated that the goal of my journey is an eternal encounter with God. This phrase lends hope to the possibility that my goal is achievable. Do not read the last couple sentences of this reflection yet. Come back to them when you have concluded your own contemplations to see how your experience compares to or differs from mine.
When I spent time with this piece of Scripture, I decided the beginning I described in the last chapter would benefit from a couple additions.
I asserted above that the saving plan of God ought to elicit a response in me of not just gratitude, but also of joy. Perhaps joy ought to be part of my beginning.
But this phrase concerning hope also brought forth an intensely joyful response in me. It is not just gratitude and joy that should be linked. Hope needs to be added as well. As I move forward to the next reflection and a discussion of Penance, all three of these should accompany me.
This leads me to conclude that my beginning should now include not just faith and belief, but also joy and hope.
How does this compare to what you discovered while contemplating this phrase?
What would you add to my conclusion for your own use?