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Canada Day – 2019

During one of my assignments as Superior in a Jesuit community, I helped get settled a Canadian Jesuit who had lived outside Canada from 1959 to 2015 – 56 years. Most of his years were spent in India, Nepal and Armenia. He told me that each time he returned to Canada for a few weeks, he wondered if we realized just how well off we are.

He said that he was nervous at having to move back here, because he said that living among people who have so little had made him so grateful. He feared that he would forget how much he has to be grateful for if he was surrounded by Canada’s wealth.

Any of us who have had our eyes opened to the reality of our world likely have a deep sense of just how blessed we are – in healthcare, education, human rights, relative wealth, security, and so on. Life in Canada is not perfect and there are segments of our population who lack far too many essentials. But, over all, we know that life in Canada is very good compared to the situation of most people in the world.

We are regulars on lists of the best places to live. As former US President Bill Clinton remarked, “Canada has shown the world how to balance freedom with compassion and tradition with innovation. In a world darkened by ethnic conflicts that tear nations apart, Canada stands as a model of how people of different cultures can live and work together in peace, prosperity, and mutual respect.”

Those of us who have first hand experience of other parts of the globe have had an opportunity that should lead to profound gratitude. We have witnessed global poverty, injustice, ethnic conflicts, struggles of peoples for peace and justice, the lack of human rights, and the plight of refugees looking for a place to call home.

When we reflect on those experiences, we are moved to gratitude. Gratitude moves many to want to give back, to help create a world of peace and justice.

The opening prayer of the liturgy for Canada Day is, “Eternal God, whose reign extends from sea to sea, and whose care endures throughout the ages, hear our prayers for our country: grant wisdom to those who govern it and respect for human life and dignity to every citizen, so that justice may flourish and all peoples live in unity and in peace.”

We pray for our leaders to make wise decisions. That wisdom also extends to each of us. David Johnston, a former Governor General, reminded us one Canada Day a few years ago about the gift of the imagination. “Canadians have always imagined what can be and have worked hard to achieve it. We dream of new possibilities and set out to realize them.”

Today is our nation’s birthday. As we have our family gatherings, barbeques, fireworks, and waterskiing today, let’s take a few minutes to grow in gratitude for all we have and to imagine the ways in which we can work toward a world where others have the justice and peace that we enjoy.