“Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.”– Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est”
Gifts are on my mind.A couple of recent articles on “Rules for Gifting” encourage parents to give children 10 gifts max, with a rationale for each one.
As my own children have become adults, some with children of their own, my gift list has both grown longer – and narrower. No one will receive multiple gifts at my house except my husband.
In this holiday season, gift-giving and gratitude go hand in hand (we hope!). It’s commonplace to focus on our blessings rather than what’s missing – and during COVID-19, that seems not only virtuous, but essential to survival.
When I was a child, I remember hearing my great-aunt Ida say she preferred Thanksgiving to Christmas because the focus is on what has been received rather than on what you were going to get.
At the time I thought she was crazy – but at age 10 I didn’t have her perspective.
Now I am at least as old as she was when she said that and now I understand. I also notice that my pleasure in gift giving now is more about choosing a good gift for someone than it is about what I’m going to receive. Nevertheless, I won’t try to explain that to my grandchildren.
In all our gift-giving we can find an echo of the original “giving,” and we imitate the original Gift-Giver. The given-ness of our life is fundamental; recognizing our creation is a key to successfully navigating life. When we understand ourselves (correctly) as the recipient of a gift – of gifts beyond measure, when we understand ourselves to have received EVERYTHING – including the invitation of God into communion with the Trinity through the free gift of His Son – then our mind is changed (blown, if you will).
That Christmas gift list I am managing doesn’t begin to compare with the list of gifts I’ve received in my life. I don’t know about you but I haven’t always recognized those gifts I have received, haven’t always welcomed events or people, friends or even sometimes family members as gifts. Receiving gifts is sometimes a lot harder than choosing them.
Last week, as I was musing on some difficult relationships, I found myself really stuck, frustrated and a little bit resentful. After wallowing for a few minutes, I got a grip and prayed briefly that God would show me the way forward. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the prayer. I spent a lot more time on the frustrations than I did on the prayer, and I confess, I wasn’t really expecting much in the moment. But I immediately felt, knew, heard the words “Be A Gift.” It was exactly what I needed in that moment. I know exactly what I must do.
In this time of gift giving, the most important gift we give is the gift of our presence. As Pope Francis wisely says, “For life is a gift we receive only when we give ourselves away.” We have been greatly blessed, and acting out of that blessing, we can be a gift in turn.
Editors’ Note: Watch Katie Dawson’s “Catholic Family Minutes” on the Diocese of Orange Facebook page at facebook.com/dioceseoforange.