Edward Vacek (Spirituality and Moral Theology: Essays from a Pastoral Perspective, 103): says that “Gratitude essentially has a ‘for me’ or ‘for mine’ quality. We can, properly speaking, give thanks only when we or persons whose lives we share have been benefited. We can be happy that a stranger has won the lottery, but not thankful.”
Vacek hasn’t fully absorbed the New Testament’s, especially Paul’s, theology of gratitude. Paul thanks God on behalf of many people who are distant from him. Perhaps we could simply say that he gives thanks for distant Christians because he shares their life, which is true enough. But Paul gives thanks for benefits God does to people whom he has never met. At the beginning of Romans, he writes, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world” (1:8). He has never been to Rome, yet he gives thanks on behalf of the Romans. Still he “shares life” with them, and to that extent Vacek’s point stands. But Paul’s practice shows that we “share life” with many who are personally strangers to us, share the life of Jesus and His Spirit.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 10:49 am
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