Gratitude

Are you grateful? Do you have any favorite Scriptures which you associate with gratitude? One of my projects for the next week is compile some Scripture quotes, both old favorites and new discoveries, which show that gratitude is not just a nice consequence of a Christian life (the icing on the cake), but is essential to the very core of Christian life.

Ephesians 5:18-20 be filled with the Spirit… giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father
Col 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Tobit 12:6. Proclaim before all with due honor the deeds of God, and do not be slow in thanking him
Mark 14:23-24 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”

Gratitude to God for the gift of life directs us to the magnanimity of all God’s blessings. There is a need in every man and woman to express their praise, adoration, and admiration to God. This is why a Sabbath day is commanded by the 3rd commandment, and why ingratitude is the sin which often causes the neglect of the commandment. And, if this is given – that gratitude is the reason one should keep holy the Sabbath day which is reserved for God – we can immediately say that the 2nd commandment is at stake when the 3rd is disobeyed. Here is the connection. We know that using the name of God or the name of Jesus in anger or as a curse is a great sin. So likewise it is often a sin to use it carelessly, in a trite and habitual manner. The words “O my God” are used often not as the commencement of a prayer, (let alone an Act of Contrition). But while these may be some of the worst ways that the 2nd commandment is broken, they may not be the most frequent. Especially for the Christian, the most frequent way that the 2nd commandment is broken is by ingratitude to God, a lack of prayer, and failure to live a full life of thanksgiving. To take the name “Christian” without doing these is to take the name of Jesus Christ on oneself, but in vain (at least partially). When we seek to take the name of Christ and honor it with our lives (“Christians”) we find that we need a way to take that name more sincerely, more actively, more concretely. In truth we are not able by ourselves to give God sufficient thanks in proportion to his greatness. The only “thank you”s which in themselves rose to the level that God deserves were these: the blessings on his Father which Jesus spoke, particularly over the Eucharist at the Last Supper, and the self-offering of Jesus to His Father through his Death and Resurrection. Only Christ can take the name “Christ” with perfect gratitude. There is only one way that our thanksgiving to God can become sufficient, and that is if we unite our praise, our thanks, our prayers, to the Lord in the Eucharist. That is, if we fulfill the 3rd commandment in the exact same way that the Church directs us to fulfill it: by participating in the Sabbath Eucharist in commemoration of, and union with, the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Christ-like gratitude is at the core of the 2nd commandment, and necessary for the perfection of that gratitude, is the communion with Christ and his grateful offering in the Sabbath Eucharist. Only after this can we be in a position to live that gratitude for the gift of life, gratitude for all other gifts in the other commandments. To delve deeper into the 2nd commandment we must also reference it against the first petition that Jesus instructed us to pray in the Our Father. It is probably the most quoted reference to the “Name” of God in all of Christianity: the prayer that God’s Name would be kept “holy” by men: “hallowed be thy Name!” With such an important status as this prayer has, how can we say that it is not essential to keeping the commandment that concerns the Lord’s name? The Lord’s prayer is essential to the 2nd commandment. But how do we fulfill the petition to hallow God’s name? There is a key scripture text which shows us that if we really want to keep the 2nd commandment, then we must strive to give God thanks and praise with an ever increasing appreciation of his goodness and mercy. The reference is the Magnificat of Mary. She says “The almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name” (Luke 1:49). The Lord’s name is proclaimed holy precisely in Mary’s acknowledgement of the “great things” that she had gratefully received from the Lord. The entire Magnificat of Mary is a tribute, unparalleled by any human person, to the greatness of God, by recounting the greatness of his actions. Mary cannot be content with giving the Almighty Lord mere lip-service thanks. She proclaims his marvelous deeds, and her life of unprecedented faith shouted aloud the same thing in example, which her lips proclaimed in exulted words. This is what it means for us to hallow the Lord’s Name. This is the life of thanksgiving at the core of the 2nd commandment. This is the very reason the offering of the Liturgy is called “Eucharist,” that is, “Thanksgiving.” After all this we can say if people really kept the 2ndcommandment, they would keep the 3rd.

 

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