The saints
(Augustine, Benedict, Dominic, Francis, Ignatius and Philip Neri) remind us of
something crucial in the spiritual life, indeed, our life right now: we need to
exercise the virtue of gratitude because of our dependence on God. Gratitude reminds that we are in need of grace but also to give of ourselves to another. Saint Thomas
Aquinas teaches that gratitude is closely connected to the cardinal virtue of
justice, by which we give what is due to others. But with gratitude there is actually a
holy exchange between two people. One person benefits from a good act of another but
also wants to repay the benefaction. Rahner spoke of giving alms at Mass as a way of being involved in the good works of the Church when giving personal time is not possible but no less important because while there is some sort of a bond among the pastor, the benefactor and beneficiary it is only made stronger because real faces are behind the dollar. Think of the times when we write a thank
you note, make a promise of a deeper connection in friendship, or even the
promise spiritual works of mercy. I frequently write, “know that you are in my
prayers” to remind me and the person I am writing that I may not be able to
give something material in return, but I can make a sacrifice of gratitude
before God on behalf of another because of friendship. Gratitude and justice is
rooted in charity, in love for another, because of the Other. I think of Blessed John Paul II’s  insistence that we ought to make “a sincere gift of self.”

Saint Ignatius tells us that to be ungrateful is a sin. Imagine if we account for acts of ingratitude in our daily examination of conscience even in Confession. How is it that today I can make a sincere gift of myself? Lent is a time to recall the concrete times we’ve been grateful and made a promise to pray for another.