To God From Me
Once again the passage of days has brought us to the holy season of Christmas. On the flip side of the carols and snowflakes, the joyful thoughts and good cheer are traffic and shopping. Is your list complete? How much do you intend to spend? How much will you spend? How confident are you that you have purchased gifts that are wanted? By the way, what are you giving to God? This is the most important question of all. The response of Jesus to the query posed by the Pharisees concerning payment of the census tax was to give to Caesar what was Caesar's, but to give to God what was God's. What is God's? If we are thoughtful, the only appropriate gift to God is our total selves.
How do we accomplish this particular kind of giving? There are numerous examples of individual generosity that directly aid the work of God in this world. At his 80th birthday, the singer Frank Sinatra requested that on the occasion of his death (two years later) donations be made to Catholic Charities instead of sending flowers. Perhaps the best pitcher in baseball, Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox provided the necessary funding for the construction of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in his hometown in the Dominican Republic. Given these splendid gifts to the work of the Church, there are even greater gifts of self. In the early 1960's, Dolores Hart was a beautiful and talented film actress who rejected Hollywood for the holy woods of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut where she is still giving her life to God as a Benedictine nun: "I could have had a more lucrative career, but just how many pairs of shoes can you own? How many cars? How many houses? I always had a need to find a center in which I could offer some ray of hope."
Jesus said that you cannot love God without loving your neighbor. The gift of self to God is authentically expressed in our daily interaction with other people. The word place was a setting often used by Jesus to teach the application of the principles He taught and to highlight the need of these values. There is a phenomenon in the business world that is bringing Gospel teachings to the marketplace: Total Quality Management. The central theme of Total Quality Management (TQM) is to put the customer first. The goal is to meet or exceed the expectations of the customer. An example of TQM occurred when a customer at a hotel missed the limousine that was to take him to the airport because the pick up point had changed due to hotel renovations. The hotel agent at the front desk realized that the hotel management failed to inform the customer of the change and provided him with cab fare to the airport courtesy of the hotel. This approach is also used in TQM businesses toward co-workers resulting in an increase of each worker's self-esteem and of their desire to contribute to the well-being of the entire company. People truly caring for each other. Is that not the Gospel? Is that not the gift of self?
One clue to understanding and defining the way of giving one's self to God is to reminisce about Christmas' past. Whether or not the individuals in your Christmas memories are living, I would ask that you concentrate on what you consider the treasurers of your Christmas festivities. Do they consist of the presents exchanged between or by the presence shared with friends and family?
In our culture that tends to use the value of gifts as a measure of love, words and actions that sincerely arise from the heart may seem astonishing. Yet, it is these expressions that we remember and these gifts that we cherish. This Christmas wrap a gift for yourself. Let it be the gift of God's love for you. Allow it to sink into the depths of your soul and give you joy and confidence. Then, you may know how to give yourself to God and give your best to others. I wish you every blessing of God's love as you celebrate the birth of Our Savior.
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