Gift giving is an art. Some people are world class artists in gift giving. Others try hard and fail harder. Most of us have winners and the occasional dud of a gift. The worst gift I ever received was a pair of maroon socks when I was 6 years old from my grandparents. What were they thinking? These days I really enjoying a new pair of high quality socks for Christmas. Funny how time changes the success of that gift giving.
In addition to the art of gift giving, there is an art to gift receiving. When I was a kid, I didn’t have that gift. When I received those aforementioned maroon socks, I couldn’t hide my displeasure and disappointment. Later my mom explained that saying thank you for an unexpected gift is not only polite, but it’s wise because you never know if you actually will want or use that unwanted gift, eventually.
In the gospel, we hear about Jesus Christ giving us an incredible gift. This Sunday we will hear Mark’s account of Jesus instituting the Eucharistic Feast at the last supper. Jesus gives us his body and his blood to eat and drink. As challenging as it is the understand, Jesus isn’t speaking metaphorically when he says, “Take it; This is my body,” and “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
This gift of his body and blood is mirrored in his final moments on the Cross, when Jesus offers up his body and his blood on our behalf. It is in the cross that Jesus totally offers himself on our behalf. And so, when he gives us the gift of his body and blood at the last summer and at every Mass since then, we know he is offering himself completely to us.
What did Jesus give us? Everything.
What does the ultimate gift giver look like? Jesus. What does a good gift receiver look like? Going by my mom’s advice a good gift receiver hubby receives the gift and doesn’t try and deny it. They offer thanks sincerely and explicitly. They put that gift to good use as soon as makes sense. They don’t waste or neglect the gift.
For us that means that humbly receive Jesus in the Eucharist as Mass each Sunday. We don’t deny the gift either by skipping Mass or receiving unworthily. We offer out thanks to God during the entire Mass, but especially after receiving communion. When we leave Mass we go out and seek to live Christ centered, holy lives. In other words, we put the grace of receiving Jesus’ body and blood to good use. We love our neighbors as Jesus would love them. We don’t waste the grace or neglect God’s continued love and faithfulness.
If you need a more concrete example, there is no better one than Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary perfectly, humbly receives the gift of having the Devine within her (she was the first!). She is grateful. He puts the gift to good use. She never neglects Jesus, even when he was dying on the cross and it was painful and inconvenient to remain near to him.
We all want to be good givers. As Catholics we need to grow to become good gift receivers as well.
Live it: Go to Mass this Sunday and make the following prayer your single priority during Mass, “Jesus, Thank you.”