I find solace in the thought that, however busy I am during the Advent season, there is something I am doing that is right and noble. Balancing family life and my diaconate ministry is not that a difficult enterprise after all. With the rush of buying Christmas gifts for our overly extended family in Melbourne, I am left musing at times about the sense of it all. Do gifts really matter for adults? Yes, I am pretty sure they do for kids, but adults? There’s a debate going on in my head whether we really do need gifts during this season of giving.
There are gifts and there is giving. Before I go to the gifts, I would like us to look at giving first.
Father Pedro Arrupe, a Jesuit, once wrote a poem that endeared me to what giving means. Let me share the whole and not just a snippet of it:
Nothing is more practical than finding
God, that is, in falling in love in a quite
absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes
your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of
bed in the morning, what will you do
with your evenings, how will you spend
your weekends, what you read, who you
know, what breaks your heart, and what
amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love and it will
Every time I read this poem, it brings chills to my being and a tear. I read and meditate on it at least once a month. Somehow its beauty and simplicity transcend the pages of its lyrical poetry, into the abode of praise. In my own little way, giving is my way of praising a very generous God. It is all I can do and give. My prayer is that this own giving that I embrace will also transcend into loving. Giving has its demands: my faculties, time, resources and whatever it is at my disposal. Loving has no demands: it is total surrender. The mystery of it all is that surrender is not a demand per se because there is nothing you can control in and out of it. Like Jesus on the cross, it is sublime and abiding. Love is. And I am learning that every day.
The Giver of Love is also a Lover of Gift, and there’s no better gift than us: you and I, in a community of Love. We “have this treasure in jars of clay” (2 Cor 4:7) and “we are the clay, and you are the potter…all of us are the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). Together we are the Church: frail and yet powerful, human and yet divine, flawed but called to holiness and perfection. We have a Woman in our midst, “crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth” (Rev 12:2). She is our covenant ark when “God’s temple in heaven was opened…with flashes of lightning, peals of thunder, an earthquake and heavy hail” (Rev 11:19). Only she could bring us closer to her beloved Son. Mary is a gift par excellence, and she understands and gathers us as “gifts” before her Son. She is forever and always a Gift who gave us the Gift, so we too can embrace ourselves as gift.
Gifts, anyone? My eldest daughter who secured a job as a teacher’s aide during the pandemic somehow bought and wrapped me a Christmas present. She told me it was one gift I had wished when I was younger. Surprise? Surprise! Without telling her, I sneaked in one night under our Christmas tree and opened it: a red and black Air Jordan 1. My heart leapt and I mustered a grateful smile, under the twinkling of our Christmas tree.
I’m still a child after all. Above all, I am God’s child: that, I embrace as my gift.