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Gratitude, the primacy of grace, and the existence of God

It may not be a universal thing, but to paraphrase GK Chesterton, atheists find themselves in a dilemma when they find themselves overflowing with gratitude for existence but having no one to thank for it. if somebody is grateful for something, they are grateful to somebody. Nobody can be grateful to themselves for a gift. Neither can anyone be grateful to the “universe,” because that too is a gift which presupposes a gift giver. Moreover, if somebody thinks that nature is itself is the gift giver, that person is referring to nature as a person, using nature as a euphemism for God. I heard the story of an atheist who cried, “thank you,” out of  a surge of wonder and awe over a beautiful sunset – – in that moment she ceased to be an atheist.

Ultimately, everything, all the blessings that we have received come from Almighty God. The next breath we take is a gift. Even the power by which we do good works is a gift – – all is grace. All begins and ends with the grace of God. Grace comes first, God always takes the initiative in reaching out towards us and we respond. He thirsts for our love and so generously makes known the his love towards us; we respond to that love with our love. This is the model for prayer outlined in the Catechism.

This Thanksgiving (and Indeed, every day) I have a lot to be grateful for. Just to be alive, number one. The mercy of God always taking me back even after a relapse  (which should be avoided)—And for keeping me from even worse sin, by his grace. His willingness to transforming into an image of his Son. To have a loving family and friends who support me and make life more pleasant. The list goes on, this is just the beginning. I think of the New York Times best-selling book, “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” by Ann Voscamp, in which the author makes such a a list.

In short, gratitude makes us happier. We have an innate desire to give thanks. It is right and just that we do so. Where is this gratitude to be directed if, ultimately, not to God?

4 thoughts on “Gratitude, the primacy of grace, and the existence of God”

  1. Beautiful homily! I just was writing something about today’s feast, Jesus King of the Universe. That title always reminds me of ” He-Man and the Masters of the Universe!” I bet you could write a blog post comparing Adam/He-Man with Jesus. They both came from “Eternia” and they both “transform!” I was feeling very grateful after Thanksgiving too…we are trying to teach our kids that too, esp. Adrian. He gets fussy when things don’t go EXACTLY as he wanted…we try to tell him that there are many things to be grateful for that can make him happy. Clara “gets” it but Adrian has a harder time. Thank you and please keep on writing.

  2. Hmmm. As a thoughtful and appreciative atheist, I don’t necessarily agree. To me, being grateful is being appreciative of my condition or circumstances. That I’m grateful alive at the moment is being mindful that I’m not dead and acknowledging the state I exist. To thank God, that only at His whim of granting grace to allow me to even exist seems to contradict the idea of a loving God.
    But it certainly is benificial to all, each other and ourselves, to put effort into finds gratitude, appreciation for what is.

    1. For me, I see it as God loving you into existence. And why is there existence at all to be thankful for, also, if existence is a gift to be thankful for, who is the giver? Anyhow, I am grateful to you for your comment. Peace.

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