Choose: wrapper or gift?

Christmas Presents

Rev. José Mario O. Mandía

These days, we await the coming of the Savior. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no 85) asks: “Why did the Son of God become man?” It gives four reasons.

“For us men and for our salvation, the Son of God became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. He did so [1] to reconcile us sinners with God, [2] to have us learn of God’s infinite love, [3] to be our model of holiness and [4] to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4).” Let’s talk about the second reason.

Why is it important to know that God loves us? Because in this way, we will be capable of love. St Augustine tells us that we will not be capable of loving were we not loved. “Quia nec diligimus, nisi prius diligamur.” “We do not love unless we have first been loved.” (St Augustine, Sermo 34) Unless a child experiences the love of his dad and mom, he will not know what it means to love. St John says in his first letter: “Nos diligimus, quoniam ipse prior dilexit nos.” We love, because he first loved us. (I John 4:19)

In the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Benedict XVI wrote: ”Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift. Certainly, as the Lord tells us, one can become a source from which rivers of living water flow (cf. John 7:37-38). Yet to become such a source, one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (cf. John 19:34).”

Our task is to discover this love of God. We discover it at Christmas. We discover it when we look at the Cross. We discover it in the Lord’s Eucharistic presence. Blessed Mother Teresa said that when we look at the cross, we see how much God loved us. When we look at the Eucharist, we see how much he loves us NOW. But we can also discover this love in thousands of blessings that he sends us disguised in different forms – “blessings in disguise.”

When we receive gifts, what do we do with the wrapping? We put it aside and enjoy the gift. At Christmas, we receive a wonderful Gift. This Gift comes in different wrappings: parties, holidays, good food, nice company … But quite often, we mistake the wrappings for the Gift. We set aside the Gift, and keep the wrapping. If after Christmas you get that empty feeling, you know what you have missed.

At Christmas, we receive a wonderful Gift. St Robert Southwell, SJ (1561-1595), wrote in a poem that God knows no better gift for man than God himself. And man cannot receive a better gift than God himself. Who else but God can supply everything man needs and yearns for? Who else but the Maker of the whole universe can make us happy? God gives himself as Gift. What can I give him?

“God is my gift, Himself He freely gave me,

God’s gift am I, and none but God shall have me.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.