The Present of Presence
I woke up this morning with the phrase, “It is in giving that we receive,” and then remembered that it is St. Francis of Assisi’s famous line. As I mused about that, I could not help but reflect on Advent and Christmas 2018, because they were definitely not what I anticipated.
Being present to others is in my DNA, so it is instinctive to offer a helping hand to those in need. Since 1999, my husband and I have been singing Christmas carols in Long Term Care Centers with our group during Advent.
Our attempts at bringing the true meaning of Christmas through song, has taken us from Scarborough, to Richmond Hill, Brampton, Mississauga, and as far away as Burlington. To see senior’s faces light up with joy when they recognize a familiar tune like “Silent Night” gives us joy.
While the malls are busy with people dashing around for that perfect gift, we linger with the lonely, sick, and tired, and try to comfort them as best as we can.
The giving tradition was rolling along until I hit a major road block, ill health. Then there was a role reversal. Instead of being the giver, I became the receiver. That was foreign to me. I valiantly stumbled forward through Christmas, till I landed in hospital. Suddenly there were doctors and nurses, family, and friends helping me!
Talking about presents, their presence in acts of kindness, numerous prayers and Masses being offered for me, humbled me. It was a lesson in humility. I was forced to receive, and it felt uncomfortable at first.
I slowly began learning how to embrace my cross, because imbalance rendered me helpless, totally dependent on others. Not being able to drive my car since mid December has taken away my freedom, and it is a slow dying to self.
I happily say, “Jesus, I trust in you” when all is going well. Now I ask myself, “Am I willing to follow Jesus even though I don’t know where he is leading me?” Following Jesus means absolute trust, and in it comes the surrender, “I don’t need to know.”
What does all this have to do with presents, and Christmas, and gift giving, and the frenzy of the season? I have received a BIG gift, the infant Jesus, the Prince of peace, who has brought me peace in the midst of what has been an anxiety ridden time.
I made friends with the other patients lined up along the wall in the Emergency area. I was admitted, but the lack of beds forced me to be housed for days and nights with no privacy, constantly woken by the noisy PA system shouting colorful codes, blue, white and…
As St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said,
“Give Jesus not only your hands to serve, but your heart to love.
Pray with absolute trust in God’s loving care for you.
Let him use you without consulting you.
Let Jesus fill you with joy
that you may preach without preaching.”