Spirit in the City

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Mass Times

  Sacred Heart St. Paul's Kateri Centre
 Sunday 09:30 AM 11:00 AM 11:00 AM
 Monday - Friday 08:30 AM
11:30 AM*
 Saturday 09:30 AM  -

*  Except Mondays


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Douglas Todd wrote in his article in the Vancouver Sun yesterday; “Canadians spend more than $22 billion on gifts from mid-November to late December.” St. Nicholas has his feast celebrated on Dec 6th. He was a kindly king who legend holds anonymously threw a sack of gold into a poor man’s house on each occasion when one of his three daughters was of age to marry. The poor man could not afford a dowery to secure a marriage contract, so each daughter would be either left in extreme poverty as a single person or find herself on the streets. Indeed, there is something to be said for the high value of an anonymous gift.

“But gifts are not always, or even often, about perfect altruism, or absolute sacrifice. There's no doubt gifts can be used to manipulate people, but gifts are mostly about cementing relationships.” Says Douglas Todd

Finding presents to give is a great adventure, but never more so than for those closest to us. The degree of difficulty in finding an appropriate present depends on the depth of love. A gift for a business associate is no problem. Get him a Tim Horton’s mug. But when we get down the list to family members and then those who are closest to our hearts, well that is more than a problem.

Gifts in many ways are expressions of a kind of poverty. We wrap our gifts to heighten the expectation. There is more I want to say that is hidden and I don’t even know how to say it. The wrapping hides my poverty as I attempt to say: “You have brought me to birth, by your trust in me and the joy you discover in me in spite of my imperfections.”

Perhaps we wrap the gift to heighten the mystery: there is something here that can’t be seen.

I once received a little box wrapped up nicely including a beautiful ribbon.

On the card it said:

“This is a special gift that you can never see.

The reason it’s so special, is because it's just from me!

Whenever you are lonely or maybe feeling blue,

You just have to hold this gift and know I think of you.

You never can unwrap it, please keep the ribbon tied.

Just hold this gift next to your heart, it’s filled with love inside”

Giving material gifts to those we love deeply is always inadequate. Is not the empty box perhaps a more honest communication of the poverty we experience as we try to say thank you for the love we receive?
The greater the love, the less the gift says it. The greater the love, the longer one looks for a gift to express the care one has and ultimately that special gift can never be found. We experience a poverty of expression. There is great truth in the song, “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”

Perhaps the best way to communicate our love is to let the other know we treasure them. We acknowledge that they are the gift itself.

Douglas Todd notes that, “Albert Einstein, who was not overtly religious, famously said: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift."

It is revealing that a genius would talk of his "sacred gift." It implies humility. And it suggests where his values lie: in the imagination, where thoughts arise like a benediction.” Unquote.

Can we help others to treasure the sacred gift that is within them?

This is a time when we make efforts to bridge the gap; to re-connect; to strengthen bonds. New life is found as people struggle to express love to another.

At Christmastime we all make an attempt to connect with those we have rather forgotten during the year. We send cards to friends saying, ‘We must meet up in 2012’; we phone our family in Liverpool, in New York, in Medellín, in Cracow; children are placed at the centre of things – we take photographs of their delight in opening their presents; relatives are welcomed on their visit as graciously as possible and their irritating ways put to one side for the day; everyone has to have a gift – people exhaust themselves around the shops not just for show but because everyone must have a present at Christmastime; if things go well we remember to send a small cheque to a chosen charity, or visit the old lady on her own who lives above us in an apartment. More than this we do what we rarely do now and that is we sit down for a large family meal. At least until we get tired, we are all at our best and we wear our best clothes to show it.

Gifts, communication, children, invitations, meals: all these are graces; they are signs of God’s presence. They are truly sacramental. Mary and Joseph are not dressed in garments of the past. Jesus is born today through you and me.

God is with us. God has been with you before you enter this sanctuary within your everyday life. He is in the small church of the family and God is in Bethlehem, here in this house of bread!

The bottom line in loving is not giving of your riches, but revealing to others their riches, their value, their beauty, that they are precious in your sight.

Is this not the way of God? Again and again God has reached firstly with gifts to bridge the gap between God and humankind. He gave us commandments to guide us to life. He spoke his love to us through the prophets: "You are precious in my eyes and I love you." “I have carved you on the palm of my hand. I will never forget you.”

God bridged the gap. But finally God shared of God’s self and entered into our hearts. St. Paul in his letter to Titus says “He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.”

He did not come in strength and riches but emptied himself and took the weakness of a baby. He was not afraid of weakness and brokenness. The poverty of the stable remains; it is ours.

I need to hear the word that I am loved as I am ... that is the greatest present I will ever receive. St. Paul says it so well, when he says “He loved us while we were yet sinners."

God’s love for us is still too much for words, so God keeps sending the same gift, not each year, but every moment that we are open to receive.

The poet James Lowell once wrote:

"Not what we give, but what we share..

For the gift without the giver is bare.”

May you bridge the gap, this Christmas. Thank you for your friendship.



You are here: Sunday Homily CHRISTMAS 2011