by Antonio Zebedeo Abad
Today has been a bad day. Well, this morning you woke up, didn’t you? Many other people did not wake up this morning. You were born and lived a healthy life, didn’t you? To put things in perspective, there is much to be thankful for, we just have to look in the refrigerator. We have food to eat when a great many people in the world are starving. We have a roof over our heads when many people have lost their homes to disasters or political events.
St. Teresa of Jesus, made her way to her convent during a fierce rainstorm, she slipped down an embankment and fell squarely into the mud. The irrepressible nun looked up to heaven and admonished her Maker, “If this is how You treat Your friends, no wonder why You have so few of them!” Only a true friend of God could speak with such familiarity and temerity.“If This is How You Treat Your Friends…”| National Catholic Register (ncregister.com)
The stereotypical meaning of prayer is a pleading or asking for something. In our family prayer, we changed the format to start with gratitude for all the things that the Lord has granted us.
Teresa’s understanding of mental prayer as our being aware of who God is and who we are entails, of course, no small matter. In her Life, she gives another definition of mental prayer, which has become classic: “For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends: it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.” (8.5). The Spanish words tratar de amistad suggest a communion or exchange suffused with intimacy and love. The communion is between two. And the Other is one who we know loves us.St. Teresa of Avila The Way of Perfection: Study Edition – Kindle edition by St. Teresa of Avila. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. pos. 3109.
We’ve heard the term, “An Attitude of Gratitude” for a long time. Surprisingly, sociological studies on the cross-cultural expression of gratitude are rather recent. (Robert C Roberts, “The Normative and the Empirical in the Study of Gratitude”, Baylor University) When we’re in a foreign country, not knowing the language, the first important thing that brings us acceptance is the universal language of the smile.
The second important thing is to learn how to say “thank you” in their language. The third important thing is to learn how to say, “please” and how to acknowledge gratitude in their language. Gratitude and trust have a symbiotic relationship that reinforces each other. The simple gesture of thanks engenders trust from people you didn’t know previously. The Link Between Gratitude and Trust | Psychology Today
Examples of other ways of gratitude are: that was delicious; I am indebted to you; I appreciate you; you are an inspiration; you’re so great; you light up my life; you’re a true friend; you’ve been very helpful; you make me so happy. Examples of Words of Appreciation (yourdictionary.com)
Examples of other ways to acknowledge gratitude are: that was nothing; come anytime; my house is your house; just doing my job; please. Note that in some languages, saying please to request something and saying please to acknowledge gratitude are the same words.
The way the acknowledgment of gratitude is expressed is the key to the attitude of the person. Did that person really do this out of the kindness of his heart? Or are there strings attached, an extreme example being a bait? I won’t go any further than that.
Perhaps God gave dogs to humans to show them, unconditional love, with no strings attached.. There are the exceptions of fierce dogs, of course. But even most fierce dogs when shown love softens their hearts to give love in return. A stray dog rescued still suffers from trauma, but gradually and eventually learns to trust its new master. As St John of the Cross wrote to Mother María of the Incarnation (6-Jul-1591), “…where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love.”
The dog knows that we will never leave him. He waits outside the door to be let in. He waits behind the front door for his master to come home. He knows that he will be fed. And his forgiveness and love are very profound. We devote time together to have fun and to rest. No words are exchanged, but that strong bond is developed. Perhaps that is also our lesson in prayer, an intimate sharing without words.
In spite of so many challenges, we have much to be thankful for without saying a word, as we gaze upon the man who hung upon the cross for us, and in spite of us.