Gratitude: A project to reach happiness?

by Apologetics, Faith & Life, Value of Human Life

We’re taking advantage of the start of this new year to share a very fitting video.  It is of a TED Talk (TED is a not for profit which is dedicated to “Ideas worth spreading”) which takes place in San Francisco.  The theme is a project called “Happiness Revealed”. 

It is primarily a project which hopes to promote an attitude of gratitude and appreciation of life, knowing how to recognise reverently each moment, each small detail and everything, as gifts which have been given to us.  By doing this you can reach true happiness. 

As we said, this fits well with the start of a new year, which invites us to look with hope to the future, recognising everything as an opportunity, a gift from God.

Apostolic Elements of Gratitude

First of all we’d like to clarify that we don’t know the intentions of the conference speaker and his religious profession, which is why we’ve preferred to abstain from any critical judgement of his use of certain phrases which could be interpreted as “new age” or philosophically “pantheist”, much like “we are all at one with nature” (God included, like a new type of energy or “that personal journey to inspire us”), etc.  We have instead chosen to interpret them in the light of a proper catholic vision.

1.- In this light I think it is interesting to note how the phrase “oh my God”, which the speaker sees as a common reaction people have when faced with the marvel of nature, is in total harmony with what the Pope reminded us of in one of the past audiences in the year of faith, when, speaking of the routes that lead to God he told us:

St Augustine, who spent much of his life seeking the Truth and was grasped by the Truth, wrote a very beautiful and famous passage in which he said: “Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky… question all these realities. All respond: ‘See, we are beautiful’. Their beauty is a profession [confessio]. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One [Pulcher] who is not subject to change?” (Sermo 241, 2: pl 38, 1134).

I think we should recover — and enable people today to recover — our capacity for contemplating creation, its beauty and its structure. The world is not a shapeless mass of magma, but the better we know it and the better we discover its marvellous mechanisms the more clearly we can see a plan, we see that there is a creative intelligence. Albert Einstein said that in natural law is revealed “an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection” (The World As I See It, 1949). Consequently a first path that leads to the discovery of God is an attentive contemplation of creation.”

 The Pope later, also in harmony with the video, speaks of another two routes which lead us to God.  The first is knowing man – again in harmony with the second part of the video, which shows that through their expressions, looks, and personal stories, opens us up and speaks of this infinite mystery which is man.  The second is the route of faith, which the video in certain moments alludes to with images of people prayer and crossing themselves.  For those who would like to read the whole audience with the Pope, you can do so here.

2.- Another element which we can take advantage of for our apostolate is the central theme of gratitude. As well as contemplating the theme of the presence of God, the marvel of creation (including ourselves and others), we can, and should, also appreciate how “all that surprises us, has been given to us”,”everything is a gift”… and as a consequence, all of these marvelous things should lead us to have a profound experience of gratefulness to God. This attitude is part of the essence of Christianity, it flows naturally from recognising that our reality is a “gift”, because we can recognise that all acts of creation is are acts of giving, giving our self and therefore our love (which Pope John Paul II reminded us of).  In fact, Christianity is not a religion of ideas, or of a philosophical etiquete, as the current Pope reminds us, it is in fact an encounter with someone who has loved us first.

So we can see that it’s possible to connect the video with these fundamental themes of our faith.  Through the marvel of creation we can discover the presence of God, receiving all of this marvel as a gift given by Him for our happiness, and responding with a profound gratefulness.  We know that the response that a grateful heart gives is one of love.  We are called to this, and the video says at the end, all that we encounter, we see blessed with this love, even just through our presence.  The project of “happiness revealed” which the video wants to share with us, is in fact what Christianity has been preaching for a long time now, more than two thousand years, since true happiness was revealed in a humble manger in Bethlehem.

Questions for discussion

1.- Do you marvel at the perfection of creation, or at the mystery of your own being or that of those around you? Could this be just fruit of chance, or is it a sign which directs you to a deeper reality?  Can you discover the presence of God through the magnificence and harmony of reality?  By what means can you contemplate creation, yourself and others with “more attentive eyes” as the Pope said, to access the mystery that they bring you?

2.- Are you grateful of life? Do you find yourself loved by someone (or Someone)? Why  do you, or why do you not? Make a list of 10 things which you are grateful for, and afterwards write a short prayer to God thanking Him for them.

Bible Quote

Col 1, 3-6 “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing — so among yourselves, from the day you heard and understood the grace of God in truth.”

Daniel P. (Translated)

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