When I last blogged, I was talking of miracles. Today I have gifts on my mind…
I am not a professional writer, nor a professional theologian, nor a professional much of anything. I aspire to be a deacon some day, if God bestows that gift on me. And a lot of what I write might be heard in homilies some day. So my thoughts are my gift to my readers, those I’ve acquired. I didn’t set out to have an audience, just a vehicle to store my thoughts. It eventually became a way to evangelize. So let’s examine gifts…
In today’s world gifts are often frivolously given. We sometimes give people things because they give us things, and much of the time there’s not much thought put into them. We give because of a birthday, we give because of a First Communion, we give because someone died.
In my life, I do not give my wife gifts very often. Why? Because my gift to her, when we got married, was my self. When we got married, I promised to give her all of me. I didn’t live up to that promise, and it’s probably impossible without God, but I did make the promise. So I don’t give Anniversary, Valentine’s day, Mother’s day, birthday, Christmas gifts. I do remember those days, and possibly cook a special meal, but I don’t buy gifts for my wife. For that matter, I rarely give her flowers. The same is true vice versa. Oh, sure, we go out and buy something for occasions like Christmas, but it’s usually not for us, it’s for our home. But our attitude about giving is that we are giving ourselves to our marriage. All the way (to remember a good old song).
In the vein of the blog on miracles, gifts happen every day with our attitude. I often tell my wife that I thank her for the gift of being there next to me when I wake up. O Henry wrote a story about this self-less giving, called The Gift of the Magi. In that story, the wife’s most cherished treasure was her hair. The husband’s was a pocket watch he inherited. The wife wanted a beautiful brush for her hair, the husband wanted a chain for his watch. But the couple was so poor that they had to give up their most cherished treasure so the other could have what they wanted. The wife sold her hair so she could buy the husband a chain for his watch, and the husband sold his watch to buy the brush for the wife. The point of the story is the selflessness.
In the coming season of giving, I would encourage people to not give thoughtlessly. Did I say we don’t buy Christmas presents anymore? What we do is to craft something that everyone enjoys. Last year, cranberry-orange muffins, the year before banana-nut bread and cookies. But the point is to give something of myself to those we cherish.
I wanted to tie this in with a recent conversation I was having about priestly celibacy. The person I was talking to said that priests should not be forced to be celibate. I pointed out that, as I said above, a marriage is meant to be a total gift of self to your spouse, and that, in the purest form, becoming a priest is a total giving of self to the service of God. In this vein, the gift is freely, cheerfully given. Priest are not forced to be celibate. They are asked to give their sexuality to God, to give up their sexuality, in essence, that they might serve God better. So just as in a marriage, God calls, the man answers the call, saying Yes to God (or no), and then committing all of himself to serve God. Those priests who give this gift freely will very usually be very good priests.
Married people who give themselves freely to their spouse also tend to be more happily married. Remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive.