“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth to have a thankless child.” Have you heard this before? No, it wasn’t said to me by my parents, and if your parents haven’t said it to you, then you must be doing something right. However, this quote is from King Lear, Act 1, Scene 4, when Lear is complaining about how one of his daughters is treating him.
The irony is Lear has been rather ingrateful himself. At the beginning of the play, he only thinks of what he wants and who will say the nicest things about him, rather than all the people he’s depended on over the years and what’s best for him. In a fit of pique, he banishes two of his biggest supporters, two people he can depend on, meaning he’s going to trust people who don’t have his best interests at heart. As the play goes through, he lurches from calamity to calamity until at last he shaking his fist at a thunderstorm, yelling “I am a man more sinned against than sinning.” His ingratitude narrowed his vision, and it cost him.
The parable in todays’ Gospel reading is pretty straightforward in its message. The background study shows the amount owed was far larger than could be repaid, which is amazing in a time before credit cards and the Internet. The mercy of the master is beyond belief, as is the servants lack of charity to his colleague. The warning to us is very clear: God is merciful beyond belief to us, and we owe it to everyone else to show our appreciate that by showing charity to one another.
Gratitude is the virtue that can help us keep our perspective. It keeps us from being too full of ourselves, reminds us who we depend on, and helps us see our place in the world. It can also keep us from wasting the gifts we received, as well as respecting those we depend on. Gratitude is a virtue that we should cultivate: it particular will help us keep from getting lost in our anger (which the First Reading warns us about,) and indignant over perceived slights. Who are we after all?
The Greek word for Eucharist means thanksgiving: every time we celebrate Mass, giving thanks and remembering all God’s gifts to us is part of what we do. When we gather, we are called to cultivate gratitude, which helps keep us on the right path together, and challenges us to share as our Savior shares Himself with us..