“How can I repay the Lord for all the good done for me? I will raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. … I will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah!”  —Psalm 116:12-14, 17-19

On May 8 I will celebrate 30 years as a diocesan priest, and on June 14, I will turn 60 years old.  Don’t tell my fifth and sixth graders because they think I’m in my 20s, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint them.

Part of me thinks wryly: “Is there life after 60?” The other part of me wonders how 30 years could have passed so quickly. So many parishioners have come and gone. So many priests have come and gone. So many assignments have come and gone. And then I begin to wonder about the future: “Will I have my health? Will I have my memory? Where will I live? How long before I am forgotten after my death?”

And then I remember the words of the psalmist in Psalm 116: “How can I repay the Lord for all the good done for me?” And I readjust my thinking. It’s not about me. It’s about Him.

The essence of the Catholic life is one of thanksgiving and gratitude. It is most sublimely enacted in the Sacrifice of the Mass which is the thanksgiving par excellence, by which one calls on the name of the Lord in the presence of all His people proclaiming “Hallelujah!” In English that means “Praise God!”

So, one concrete way for each of us to be grateful in our lives is not to leave Mass without telling God something for which we are grateful that day. I say that for especially for myself because I can become easily distracted at Mass.

Just recently in St. Johnsbury, the power went out one hour before Mass began. Confessions were heard by candlelight. We began Mass, nonetheless, at 4 p.m. without lights, heat or any microphones. As the winter sun was setting and it was getting darker and darker inside, I began to speed things up so that people would have enough of what was left of the daylight to walk down the aisle to receive Holy Communion and be able to exit the church after Mass.

Just as I pronounced the words of consecration over the sacred host and lifted Jesus up at the first elevation, the lights popped on. The congregation gave a gasp. The Lord has a sense of dramatic timing. Hallelujah!

Meditate often on Psalm 116 when you are thinking about the passage of time in your own life, whether you are in the flower of youth or the flower of old age. Let the Lord be the center of all your “times” as Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Let us offer Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving in gratitude for a lifetime of blessings.

—Father Lance Harlow is pastor of Corpus Christi Parish based in St. Johnsbury.

—Originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.