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Long IslandLI Life

God Squad: Remember to give thanks for your blessings

The medieval mystic Meister Eckhart taught, "If the only prayer you ever say is, 'Thank you' it will have been enough."

A group of 100 or 1,000 people is hard for me to envision, so when I read about millions and more who suffer hunger, disease and fear for their very lives and safety, I cannot begin to comprehend it. Why was I was chosen to live the life God has given me? Why was I chosen to have love, comfort, warmth, food, safety and the beauty of a long life? I give thanks every day, but I don't understand it. I am certain it is a question asked by many who have also been blessed with this incredible gift as my family and I have. Why me, God? From P.

Your question is not a problem — it is a mystery. A problem is a question that is external to us and can be solved. A mystery is a question that involves us at the deepest level of our faith and cannot be solved. It can only be entered. "What is the cure for cancer?" is a problem. "Why are you blessed with good fortune and others burdened with suffering?" is a mystery. The French existentialist philosopher Gabriel Marcel made this important distinction between problems and mysteries. He wrote, "A problem is that which we constitute. A mystery is that within which we ourselves are constituted."

What this means is that the response (not the answer) to your deep and sensitive question will be revealed by how you live your life. If you decide to live by sharing your abundant blessings with others, that is the meaning of why you were blessed. If you see your blessings as just proof that you have good luck and you keep your blessings all for yourself, that will be the meaning of your good luck. You will have received much so that you could be greedy and selfish. The response to a mystery is your life.

I do want to tell you how much I admire you and your question. I receive many questions from my readers that are the reverse of your question. They also ask, "Why me, God?," but they are not asking about why they were so blessed. They ask why they are so burdened. They ask why God has shortchanged them when blessings were handed out. You are one of the very few who are bewildered by your blessings. Thank you.

I am spiritually weary from repeating over the years the same mantra, that suffering in life is not punishment for sin. Suffering is not a test of faith. Suffering is not karma. Of course, some suffering and some blessings are indeed the clear consequences of freely chosen sinful or virtuous behavior. Smoking causes sickness, and it is foolish to ask God why sickness has come to a smoker. It came because it was invited. Conversely, people who are kind, just and courageous and live a life surrounded by loving friends and family have earned that love.

Beyond the obvious ways we earn punishments or rewards, however, it is clear that life presents us with sheer, naked, unmerited good and bad luck in various measures — and for no good or bad reason.

What I wonder is why people tend to ask your question, "Why me, God?" more often when they are suffering than when they are blessed. Why are so many of us spiritually bewildered about our bad days and hardly ever bewildered about our good days? Perhaps our narcissism leads us to believe that we are way better than we are. Perhaps we do not keep such good track of our moral failings. Whatever is true, I am happy and grateful to have a reader like you who is bewildered by blessings and not stumped by suffering.

So let me end by giving you as direct an answer to your brilliant and compassionate question/mystery as I am able. My answer: I don't know why you were blessed, but I do know what you must do. Share your blessings, and say "thank you" to God. Even though your blessings are not rewards for good behavior, they are from God in some indirect way, and so you must give thanks for them. Why you were chosen to receive them may be the wrong question. Maybe you were not chosen at all. Maybe it is just luck in life; either way, sharing them and giving thanks are the right things to do.

The medieval mystic Meister Eckhart taught, "If the only prayer you ever say is, 'Thank you,' it will have been enough." Let us all be his student and yours.

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