“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.