Pastor's Desk Notes

August 28, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The phrase bothered me. “Everything is gift.” I’ve always believed in using articles, definite or indefinite, even though I don’t mind when the word “gift” is verbed. If that makes any sense. Anyway, I didn’t like the phrase, but one of my high school religion teachers kept using it, such that it has been permanently imprinted on my brain and has become one of the most important lessons I ever learned. Everything is gift.

The Gospels for Sunday Mass the last few weeks have indicated our need to be detached from material goods, to be humble, to be prepared for the day when we will meet the Lord. Today, Jesus teaches us to take the lowest place, that is, never to assume our own importance. Further, He says, we ought to act, not expecting repayment for our kindnesses. Everything is gift. How important we realize that life owes us nothing, that whatever we have or are capable of, our situation, even our sufferings, is truly “gift” (I so badly want to insert an article, but am torn by fidelity to the phrase and grammatical preference)!

This teaching has both practical and spiritual application. Weddings come to mind. As I work with couples preparing for marriage, they are understandably concerned with invitation lists and putting together a bridal party. We often hear about friendships being sorely tested by weddings: an invitation without a plus-one, not being chosen as a bridesmaid, etc. There is an expectation that an invitation requires a reciprocal invitation. Putting aside Emily Post for a moment, why do we put such high value on being invited to things – parties, events, clubs? Might there be in each of us, as there was in the person in the Gospel who chose the highest place, just a touch of self-importance and entitlement? On the other hand, if we took Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel today seriously, if we understood “everything is gift,” we might let go of that desire for the highest place or for repayment. We are better off when we expect nothing, for it disposes us to an attitude of receptivity instead. If I do not expect repayment in any form, I can receive whatever comes my way as a gift and blessing. Practically, this brings much greater peace and less conflict to our lives.

On the spiritual level, our Lord tells us that such an attitude and such practices “will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” We won’t find total and perfect satisfaction in this life. Just as material goods will not bring us lasting happiness, just as a spiritual outlook is needed when dealing with the things of this world, so too with regard to our sense of self-importance. The road of humility, leaving entitlement behind, opens us more to the grace that God desires to bestow, increases our hope for eternity, and allows us greater freedom in the spiritual life. Many years ago, working with the Missionaries of Charity in Madrid, I learned something of this. They asked me to give one of the elderly men in their care a bath, and after, as I helped him dress, he turned his pockets inside-out, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Dios te paga,” – God will pay you.

Everything is gift. We have received immense blessings, both material and spiritual. We are entitled to none of it. Let us be thankful for what we have received. Let us be generous in giving from what we have received, never hoping for earthly gain, but for that which can only be repaid in heaven. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”


Fr. Sam