Second Sunday after Christmas
5 January 2014
St. Louis Convent, Monaghan 11.45am
My dear friends,
Kathleen celebrated her ninetieth birthday earlier this year. She had less energy than in past times and, as Christmas approached, she decided that buying presents for family and friends was more than she could handle now. So she got out her cheque book wrote out a series of cheques and in each relevant card she carefully wrote “buy your own present” and then had them posted. When the festivities were over, she was tidying a pile of papers on her desk only to come across the cheques she had so carefully written some weeks previously. To her horror, she had to face the embarrassment of realising that everyone on her gift list had received a nice Christmas card from her with a note, “buy your own present”, written inside but without the cheques. Not a Christmas she will want to remember for a long time.
When he was asked to speak about giving the Eastern Mystic, Kahlil Gibran said among other things :
You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear
you may need them to-morrow?
And to-morrow, what shall to-morrow bring to the over prudent dog, burying
bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving,
nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.
All you have shall some day be given.
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.
These reflections sit comfortably with the words of Scripture. Wisdom says she has “taken root in a privileged people, in the Lord’s property, in his inheritance”. Paul, addressing the Ephesians, blesses God the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ who has given us all the spiritual blessings of heaven, making us adopted children and enabling us to live through love in his presence.
John crowns it all in the beautiful reflection on the Word of God with which he opens his Gospel. The Word was with God in the beginning and it is from this source that all life comes. Light came to overcome the darkness. The Word was made flesh and lived among us. Not everyone recognised him, and more did not accept him but, those who did became children of God. This was God’s own gift to a wayward people. No one has ever seen God but we have seen and heard His Son who became man and made him known. Grace and truth have come to us through him.
There is nothing as precious as presence to those we love. Gifts, letters, cheques, phone calls are good, but they cannot take the place of presence. Presence brings comfort and peace. He lived among us. He became one of us. It tells us how close God is to us and how close we can be to God in the midst of our sometimes painful and sometimes joyful lives. If we allow ourselves to become disconnected from God, an enormous loss occurs and a huge vacuum results. A sense of God’s presence with us and of his love for us brings great richness to our lives and is something we can share with others in a way that enriches their lives too.
If we begin with granny maybe we should give the last word to a child. Some days before Christmas, the little fellow went in to a clothes shop and declared, with all the confidence of a child, that he wanted to buy pyjamas for his Mum. The shopkeeper smiled benignly and said that was a very nice thing to do, but he would need to know a little more. “Tell me, he said, is she short or tall. “She’s perfect” said the little fellow. So the shopkeeper gift-wrapped a nifty medium size for her. A few days later, Mum gingerly exchanged them for an extra- large. Would the world be a better place if we could all see as that child. Is that what Jesus meant when he said, “Unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”
+Liam S. MacDaid
5 January 2014