One Thanksgiving when I was a child, our family prepared food at the local homeless shelter. I’ll never forget the smiles on the faces of the workers as well as the recipients. In spite of the hard work put into preparing the meal, the genuine act of love and care filled the room with joy. Those who gave and those who received were united in communion.
I reflect on that day quite frequently and Advent has been the perfect time for my optimistic outlook on the world to shine as brightly as that star in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. No matter how dark and negative the world may seem at times, no matter how many news stories we see about death, heartache, and pain, and no matter how many people hated Star Wars, there is something innate in the human person that makes us want to give and brings us joy when we do so.
This is not something unique only to the Christian or to the person who we would say has a high moral standard. It is a universal that comes from so deep within that one might even say it is not so much a characteristic of the person as much as it is the person itself. Man (male and female) is a gift. The Encyclical of the Catholic Church, Gaudium Et Spes, makes the claim that “man cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself.”
This is a bold statement; that we cannot even begin to understand who we are unless we give of ourselves. Why is that? Well, the easy answer is that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This is a fact that has been watered down to meaning that we should have a positive self-image. That is part of it but really sit with this reality for a second. God creates man in His image to be with Him forever, man turns his back on God, God becomes his creation so that His creation can be reunited with Him forever. Talk about the ultimate gift.
And precisely because we are made in the image and likeness of God, who is perfect gift, we truly find ourselves when we make a genuine gift. Gift transcends, every time, the physical world into the supernatural.
In one of our earlier Advent blogs, Paul Fahey reflected on “how God became man so that man might become God.” This doctrine of the Church is known as divinization, where we will share intimately in the divine nature of God when we reach heaven. St. John Paul II said,
“Divinization means participation in the inner life of God himself. In this state penetration and permeation of what is essentially human with what is essentially divine will then reach its peak, so that the life of the human spirit will reach a fullness that was absolutely inaccessible to it before.”
This is the destiny of every human person, to be intimately united with the divine nature of God. But this is not just some abstract idea or something to look forward to. We can begin, so to speak, to enter into this reality right now. Every act of gift imitates the Divine because the Divine is the origin of the gift.
During this time of Advent, we reflect on the most beautiful gift of all, the incarnation of the Word. St. John Paul II said, “Because of the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology through the main door.” These are some rich words with deep meaning. This essentially means that because God became man, we can make the invisible (God), visible (tangible), through the visible (the gift of ourselves).
This is indeed reason to rejoice. So this Christmas season, if you are frustrated with the cashier at the busy store you are shopping at, having to stomach an awkward family reunion, or sad that you may not be able to see family or friends, think of one way you can be a gift. Don’t finish reading this blog without a change. Let this be a moment of transcendence. You may just find that it brings you immense joy. From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!
As Diocesan Publications’ Solutions Evangelist, Tommy is committed to showing parish and diocesan staffs how to use our communication tools to their best advantage. He has worked for years in various, youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. As an expert on Catholic communication, Tommy uses his parish and diocesan experiences to help you make your ministry effective. To bring Tommy to your parish or for general inquiry, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him online at www.rodzinkaministry.com