BEFORE THE CROSS | Our giving should mirror God’s self-giving

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Related Articles: 

It's about to get dark, in two senses.

In the first place, we switch from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time this week. Sure, the actual amount of daylight stays the same. But changing the clocks makes it feel like it's getting a lot darker, doesn't it?

Second, now that Halloween is over, the Christmas advertising blitz is about to begin. Its relentless push — rolling right over Thanksgiving, for the most part — can give the next two months a frantic air. If we're not careful, that's another kind of darkness that can envelop us over the next two months.

How might we bring any light to the darkness that sometimes accompanies the Christmas blitz? If we make a distinction, I think we can. What's the distinction?

Let's start with what's right. The Christmas blitz makes use of a good spiritual tendency in us: the desire to give. We're made in the image and likeness of God, and it's the very nature of God to be self-giving. He gives us the gift of creation, and the gift of Himself in the Eucharist, for example. Imitating God is written into our very nature, so we want to give gifts, too.

But it's important to notice when something that's good — in this case, the desire to give — gets pulled off track. For many people, the Christmas blitz carries with it a growing sense of being frantic. What starts out as a desire to give becomes the frantic need to find the right gift, or just something — anything! — to give. When it becomes frantic like that, gift-giving leaves exasperation and exhaustion in its wake.

Giving that's rooted in God isn't frantic, and it doesn't leave us exasperated. If and when our giving does, that's a sign that we're getting off track. The interior feeling (frantic) and the fruit (exhausted) are the tip-off that our good desire is being manipulated, and we're no longer imitating God.

Can we correct that?

The readings this week invite us to think about what we're giving, how we're giving it, and the fruit the giving produces. These three levels can help us refine our giving, and make it more like God's way of giving. We ask ourselves the following questions:

What do I give: Am I giving something that's part of my very self, or am I giving the proverbial fruitcake?

How do I give: Is my giving rooted in peace, or in anxiety?

What's the fruit: Does my giving energize me, or leave me exhausted?

These questions can refine our approach to Christmas giving, and help us notice when it's getting off track. As we master all three levels, our giving becomes more thoroughly an imitation of God's giving. That can bring greater peace to our hearts, and some light to the darkness at this time of year. 

No votes yet