Spirituality for Today – Winter 2022 – Volume 26, Issue 2

Joy to the World

Rev. Raymond Petrucci

In 1999, Shel Silverstein died at age 68. This prolific writer, cartoonist, poet, songwriter, and playwright authored The Giving Tree. Likely, we all have read it. For the reader who has not, it is a tale with a moral about a little boy who becomes an elderly man, and a large apple tree. The little boy loved to climb the tree and eat its apples. The tree loved the boy and enjoyed being a source of happiness for him. As the little boy grew into a man, no longer was happiness found in climbing the tree. The young man thought he would find the enduring happiness he sought through the material offerings of the world. The tree provided its fruit to sell, then later, its branches for lumber to build a house, then its trunk to build a boat, and, finally, the little boy, now an elderly and unhappy man, returned to the tree which now was a stump. The tree told the old man that he had nothing left to give him to make him happy. The story ends with the old man, now dispirited and tired, just wanted to rest. The tree offered his stump as a seat for him to rest upon. The "boy" ends despairingly, but the tree was happy. Was it better to give than to receive? Was the tree an enabler? Was the boy just an insensitive narcissist? Could the moral be, however, that true happiness is found in a magnanimous, selfless love?

Let us look at another tree, a tree appropriate to the season, a tree symbolizing eternal life and eternal love Рa Christmas tree. You see them everywhere. Within the home, it is the central scene of Christmas joy. Their branches are festooned with lights and ornaments, and a star or an angel on top. On Christmas morning, the tree hosts a family’s presents to each other along with, of course, those from Santa. Although the Nativity set captures the greatest gift of Christmas, the Christmas tree awakens the widest images of Christmas and Christmas memories for most of us.

It is the sign of endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let it be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deed of blood, but loving gifts and rights of kindness.

Saint Boniface

Can we agree that an abundant treasure of joy needs to be spread to every corner of our world? After the struggles of the past couple of years, joy needs to occupy the centerstage. Joy is a greater thing than happiness. Happiness draws its presence from exterior happenings and soon passes, but joy is an inner reality that remains in the heart and gives warmth to the soul. That tree of Shel Silverstein considered itself happy from the spirit of giving that made its love for the boy its motivation. At Christmas and all through the Christmas season, the gift of self to others motivated by the gift of Jesus to the world becomes the lasting beatitude, the blessing of love. Pope Saint John Paul II said, "The joy promised by the Beatitudes is the very joy of Jesus himself: a joy sought and found in obedience to the Father, and the gift of self to others."

We, at Clemens Productions, wish to extend to you and your loved ones a Christmas of joy and peace and a new year that brings health, happiness, and peace to the world.