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Good news to foster gratitude

Last month I wrote about the ways that envy can drive us apart. Our materialistic culture, which places so much value on things over people, makes it very difficult for us to love properly. To keep ourselves from succumbing to envy, the church’s social teaching suggests fostering gratitude.
 
My wife used to work at a firm in Canada that employed a gentleman from Lithuania. He had grown up in the then-Communist nation and had managed to escape. He was the whole IT department for the small firm, and he would often deal with very frustrated co-workers who couldn’t quite figure out what was going wrong with their computers. Though always a professional, he would at times confess to my wife his own frustrations. 
 
“Why do Canadians complain all the time?” he would ask her. “You should live under Communism. Then you will have something to complain about.”
 
My wife’s co-worker could certainly have been talking about Americans, too. Over the last several months in this column I’ve been writing about obstacles to unity. I understand that it can be hard to be grateful when all we hear about is how bad things are in this country. So allow me to offer some good news.
 
We are the freest, wealthiest, most secure, most widely educated people in the history of humanity. As we sit together and listen to all the disasters promised to befall us, we might not be aware of the incredible leaps in technology which we are about to make, leaps that may solve many or most of our resource problems. In fact, over the last 30 years, global poverty has decreased by at least 50 percent. Some measurements suggest even greater decreases.
 
Consider that while we have been accused of being a population that cannot pay attention to any one thing for more than 30 seconds, the latest trends in media consumption tell a different story: Consumers are willing to watch, listen and, yes, read hours-worth of content to learn deep truths. 
 
And yes, while there are many signs of the breakdown of the family, consider the fact that the pro-life movement is growing. Sixty-two percent of Americans are in favor of an abortion ban after 20 weeks. Though we often hear that half of marriages end in divorce regardless of faith, in fact, regularly attending church together reduces a couple’s risk of divorce 30 to 50 percent. This is true regardless of race. Indeed, the more a couple attends church, the more likely they are to stay together.
 
The fourth chapter of Pope Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exultate,” is titled “Signs of Holiness in Today’s World.” Among them he lists “joy and a sense of humor.” Focusing on our gratitude for life, family, faith and the myriad other blessings which surround us is a choice we can make, and it’s a choice that lays the groundwork for joy. 
 
There is good news out there, and we should be grateful. It is this gratitude, encouraged by the church in her documents, that can help produce a spirit that can transform our society. Fraternity, wrote Pope Benedict XVI, is necessary for a just society, and by living in gratitude for each other, we can help create and foster that fraternity.
 
However, we cannot forget that apart from these hopeful signs, we ought to be most grateful for the love of God who poured himself out for our sake. Let us be grateful above all for that love of Christ, which gives us great joy and which binds each of us together, creating an eternal fraternity.
 
Deacon Omar Gutierrez is director of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith in the Archdiocese of Omaha. Contact him at ofgutierrez@archomaha.org.

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