Week 1 Discussion prompt for DTH 512: Spiritual Life in the Classics:
Numerous passages in Sacred Scripture highlight the necessity of changing our sinful ways. Name one of those passages, not spoken about in the lecture this week. Next, comment upon the place of gratitude in the spiritual life, particularly as it concerns the readiness to change in that Scripture passage. How does gratitude enable one to grow in holiness? Give at least one concrete example.
“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15, NABRE). These are the first words recorded to have been spoken by Christ in the Gospel According to Mark. In this account, then, the entire public ministry of Christ kicks off on the note that we should cast off our sins in light of God’s promises to man, amazingly generous promises that the Lord has made and kept.
For those who are not Adam and therefore are not responsible for the Fall of man, it is possible that one could feel that God is obligated to save him. He might feel entitled to God’s merciful plan of salvation. But in truth, man can blame only Adam’s sin, his own, and to some degree the sins of those around him, for his universally and particularly fallen condition.* God is in no way to blame, and is therefore cannot be held as obligated to step in and save man from himself. Thus, any feeling of entitlement concerning God’s rescuing us from our own follies should be banished and replaced with a profound—and much more realistic—gratitude.
We are completely dependent upon God for the beginning of our existence and the sustaining of our existence. Furthermore, over the course of our existence, we “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Thus, we clearly can claim no “right” whatsoever to God in any way. This further means that we do not have any “right” to anything good at all; for God is goodness itself/Himself, and therefore the goodness of any good thing—including that of the human person (see Gn 1:31)—has its source in God and only in God. Any goodness that one has, then, even the goodness of his very self, is truly a gift of God bestowed upon an unworthy recipient.** If we could live in recognition of this, our lives would be dramatically changed; for truly, we expect so much to the point of being annoyed when we don’t get what we want, yet have a “right” to so little, and should be immeasurably grateful for that which we have been given. (The preceding two paragraphs were inspired by the Week 1 definitions and lecture provided by Dr. Siegmund.)
*By which I mean man’s fallen nature as a whole and any particular ways in which a particular person has fallen. I mention the sins of others through the various scandals those sins can give.
**This isn’t to deny a person’s being able to work and earn money or food or something like that; but important to remember is that one’s ability to work, and whatever goods are earned, ultimately are sustained in existence by God, and therefore are still His gifts.