Episode 5. Gratitude and the Virtue of Justice

Gratitude should be our primary disposition. Look at the world of pop psychology and meditation practice – one of the first things they focus on to find peace is to be grateful.  

This isn’t anything new in the Christian space either.  ‘We love, because he first loved us’ – 1 John 4:19 – What is our response to love if not one of gratitude? We have nothing, not even life without God. We also wouldn’t have salvation, eternal life after death without God. So, if we don’t first foster a grateful heart how can we begin to live this life well?

This is why Gratitude is linked to Justice (to give what is due to God and Neighbour). A moral debt of appreciation and thankfulness is owed to the giver of the gift – not necessarily to return a gift of the same monetary value, but to give in equal or greater measure of love. 

Three things to remember:

1. Recognize the gift – identify

2. Express appreciation and thanks – joyful

3. Repay favour with prudence – suitable place and time, according to one’s means, and trying to surpass the gift received

Holding fast to Gratitude also creates a stumbling block for Pride – while ever we recognize that we have received so much from God, we recognize our dependence on God and become less dependent upon our own strengths and merits – therefore helps us to be more humble 

Ignatius of Loyola says that ‘Ingratitude is the cause, beginning and origin of all evils and sins’, which makes intuitive sense. When we fail to see the good things in life as gifts from God that we are unworthy recipients of, it becomes very easy to in a sense begrudge the giver of a gift as we ‘expect’ things as owed to us, instead of it being a gift. 

Gratitude within relationships and Friendships:

  • Try being angry at your spouse for something they said or did, and be grateful they are your spouse at the same time
  • Try being jealous over something your friend has and be grateful for the gift of their friendship at the same time 
    • It’s difficult to do. Gratitude reminds us who that other person is to us; a gift. Does this mean difficult conversations cannot be had – of course not. Have them, figure out a healthy way to move forward, but also reorder your thoughts and emotions to remember who they are to you, and not dwell on what they have said, done, or made you feel. 

Actively work on gratitude not only at heart but also in action and words. Stina shares her personal journey of discovering her ungrateful heart with the help of her accountability partner and how this directly impacted her friendship with Padre and others.

A change of heart didn’t start off easy. It meant mentally preparing to focus her mind and heart away from what she had learned as a habit. Stina gives some reflective questions to consider if you too suffer from an ungrateful heart at times.

  • What body language will you focus on to demonstrate your gratitude?
  • Will you sit arms crossed and slouchy, not wanting to participate to receive? Or will you sit upright, and open ready to welcome whatever your friends might offer you?
    Our physical language speaks volumes not only to those around us, but also reinforces our minds to think a particular way. Break those patterns. 

Another factor to be considered is the manner in which we express sorrow for our sins. There are two attitudes which we can approach repentance with. The first is ‘I’m sorry because I don’t want to go to hell.” Traditionally this is called ‘attrition’ – a word which means literally ‘to rub away’ coming from the latin ‘ad + terrere’. So if I am sorry due to attrition, its like I’m saying, ‘God, I want you to clean away or destroy my sin, because I don’t want to be punished. This is not the same as contrition, in fact, scholastic theologians called this imperfect contrition. Now lets be clear, most of us struggle to reach perfect contrition, where, purely, we are sorry because we know how our sins have offended God’s goodness, and we realise the gratitude and love we ought to bring to God, and we deeply wish not to have offend him again because we love him. For many of us, we’re struggling to get there, often we find mixed motives in our repentance, including not wanting to go to hell. And that’s okay, as long as we realise that we’re meant for true contrition and act upon that realisation, growing more in love with God, and becoming ever more grateful for his incredible gifts. The more grateful we are for God’s goodness the more we become disposed to true contrition. The danger of remaining in attrition without growth, is that we see sin not as an offence against the God we love, but as a thing that a despotic deity will not allow us to engage in. 

Padre recently read a reflection on the narrow gate Jesus likens the path of righteousness as a narrow way, because it requires self mastery, and avoiding the extremes of emotional responses and allowing virtue not vice to govern us. Its a narrow way because we have to choose Christ consistently, and there are so many other seemingly attractive choices to distract us. However, we must not forget, that this narrow is also a royal way. It is way of joy, dignity, love and nobility. When we view the narrow gate not so much in terms of what we ‘can’t do’ or ‘what I have to do’ in order to enter the gate, and rather through the lens of the gifts God offers and who he calls us to be, we discover that the narrow gate, is actually a broad, beautiful, stunning, magnificent way to God, which calls us to gratitude. 

T.B.G

SB – Priest friends mum’s memorial Mass

SC – Ennie Hickman founder of DelRey collective – talking about his family’s practice of having an open home, to a focus on hospitality. He spoke about God wanting to come and dwell in us, and from here we go out to love. But this isn’t about partnership. It’s not about Jesus and I doing things together in equal measure, carrying equal weight, or weighing each other out. Hickman said ‘This is more like going to work with dad’. It just made me pause, and took me back to being a child when I shadowed dad as he went to meetings for work, and sat next to him at home at the computer as he worked through various invoices. I may have gone to work with my dad, but I wasn’t the one doing the work. He allowed me to do certain things, staple the corners, hold down the lid to a box, double check the maths (even though he never made a mathematical error), but he was the one bringing the work to completion, and yet at the end of the day he’d say, it’s time for a celebratory ice cream. He was proud of me for participating, listening and doing what I was asked, when I was asked. That is God’s desire. He’s not asking us to be responsible for bringing every soul to heaven. He will do that. He has a personal relationship with all of us. He just wants us to listen to the movement of the Holy Spirit, and do the little that he asks of us with love, and  to do it when he asks us with faith, and it’s through that, that we participate and go to work with our Heavenly Father. 

Ennie Hickman, thank you for being docile to the Spirit and reminding me of my place. See link to his Interview on Abiding Together

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