CHRISTMAS being a season of gift-giving and receiving, I believe it is good to be reminded of its deeply theological basis. Otherwise, it will remain in its purely material aspect, forgetting the more important spiritual dimension that it eminently has. Thus, the act of giving and receiving gifts can pose a danger to us. It can even destroy us, instead of edifying us.
Yes, the giving and receiving of gifts has a deeply moral dimension that in its turn springs from the fundamental truth that we are human persons and, therefore, has a spiritual and supernatural character due to our relation to God, our Creator.
The giving and receiving of gifts is a human act that should reflect and follow the will of God. That’s what any human act involves. It is not just our own act, completely subject to our will without any reference to God’s will.
If we look at things more closely, we will realize that our will always has to conform to God’s will and designs. Or at least we should try our best to conform our will to the will of God. That’s because we come from him and we belong to him. We are his image and likeness, children of his.
Our will therefore cannot absolutely be on its own. Its freedom just cannot be exercised without reference to God’s will, his laws and commandments, and his provident designs for each one of us and for the whole world.
As such, we therefore should realize that whenever we give or receive gifts, we ought to reflect God’s will and ways of giving and receiving. God is the original and constant giver of gifts. When we give gifts to others, we should somehow reflect God’s goodness and benevolence in giving.
We should give something that will truly do good to the recipient or beneficiary, just as God gave us the gifts of life, and the many endowments that go with it, like our intelligence and will, our talents, and the many other blessings.
We should try to avoid giving something that will do harm to a person. And in this regard, we have to know well the person to whom we give a gift to see to it that the gift, while intended to be a good thing, does not actually harm or spoil him. We should not just be capricious in giving gifts. We have to think of the good our gifts are supposed to produce in the recipient and in the world in general.
And when we receive a gift, we, of course, should be thankful to the giver as well as to God since in the end the ultimate gift-giver is God. Neglecting to do this can lead us to a number of dangers. We would fail to realize the immediate and ultimate purpose of the gift. The gift becomes an instrument of self-indulgence instead of self-giving to others. It will surely spoil us.
Let’s remember what happened to our first parents who were created with the tremendous gift of being the image and likeness of God, and of being in the state of original justice where aside from the supernatural gift of grace, they enjoyed the so-called preternatural gifts of immortality, integrity and impassibility (the capacity not to suffer anything).
When at a given moment the tempter managed to separate them from God, they fell into sin and lost the original blessings God gave them. And what a disaster it created for them and for all of us!
We should refer the gifts we receive, no matter how mundane and insignificant, to God and his will and ways. Everything that we receive and that we have actually plays a role in the over-all providence of God. This we always have to discern.
With every gift we receive, there is actually a duty and responsibility attached to it. We need to be most aware of this truth!