Saturday, November 27, 2010

What is more important to you - The “gift or the “giver” of the gift?

May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
And pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones
St Teresa of Avila

Gospel text (Lk 21:34-36): Jesus said to his disciples, «Be on your guard; let not your hearts be weighed down with a life of pleasure, drunkenness and worldly cares, lest that day catch you suddenly as a trap. For it will come upon all the inhabitants of the whole earth. But watch at all times and pray, that you may be able to escape all that is bound to happen and to stand before the Son of Man».

This gospel, the last of the liturgical year, is aimed at our attachment to the things of this life and our focus on them, at what is both literally and metaphorically our clinging to such things. Jesus asks that instead of holding tight to what we have and where we are, we trust in Him and have an active willingness to let go, to be free even of His past gifts.

We pray for Christ to come to us, after all, and we pray that His Kingdom will come, but do we really mean it? Are we ready to get up and go when He beckons to us to enter the fullness of that Kingdom in loss or even in death? Are we truly eager to join Him even in His passion and death? Enough to let go of all God's gifts and enter into Christ's death and rising, holding on to nothing and no one in this world? Are we already packing our bags, deciding what really merits taking with us and already setting aside what is of no real importance? Do we even now look forward to the time when we can move on freely, unencumbered even by the good things and people of this world?

Having such an attitude demands a great trust on our part that the Lord really does know what He is doing and that what He calls us to in death is actually a matter of His wisdom and love. We ourselves are not wise enough or loving enough to embrace death as a gift, as a calling to go to the home of our Father, so we need to prepare by these small separations, fastings, and refusals of self.

And our preparation is living the small things of daily life, trusting that what the Lord asks of us is "right and availing unto salvation" (the opening of most prefaces of the Latin Mass), that it is possible for us to live with what is sometimes painful and even to find joy in it. Our preparation is learning to let go in every small thing that comes our way, to use the gifts of God (which remain His even though they are in our hands) in such a way that we are not attached to them, and to be ready to set the gifts aside so that we can embrace the Giver.

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