by Father Mark Goldasich
Last September, this sobering meditation came across my Facebook news feed:
“On Sept. 10, 14 years ago, millions of Americans went to bed quietly, with no thought that the next morning this world would change forever.
“That night, hundreds packed flight bags they would not live to open. Thousands slept with loved ones for the last time.
“One never knows what a new day has in store.
“Let us live each day to the fullest, and never miss a chance to let those dearest to us know of our love for them.
“So, today, if you have someone in your life that you love, tell them!”
I’ve reflected on these words many times over the past few weeks. It’s been one of those years at the parish where a good number of the funerals I’ve celebrated have been for people younger than me. It’s so true: You never know what a new day has in store.
I hope that you don’t find this column depressing. That’s not the intention. Rather, it’s to remind all of us to “live each day to the fullest, and never miss a chance to let those dearest to us know of our love for them.” Having this attitude as we enter into this Advent season can have a wonderful, transforming effect on us.
Obviously, with all of the holiday gatherings coming up, we’ll have plenty of time with relatives and friends. Don’t let the opportunity go by: Tell those who live in your heart how much they mean to you and how loved they are.
Also, try to see all of the time-consuming and sometimes tedious tasks in these days — writing Christmas cards, shopping for gifts, cleaning the house, baking, decorating — as concrete expressions of the love that you have for those you care about. Making our homes more welcoming and warm, or the lives of others happier, can help us move beyond the materialism or artificiality of this season to its deeper meaning.
Another great suggestion for these Advent days came from a Leaven reader. He rightly notes that most of us are incredibly blessed and already have way more than we need. Christmas gift giving can just add to our pile of “stuff.” Since many in large families or offices draw names to see who they’re to buy a gift for, this letter-writer suggested that people put on the slip of paper, along with their name, the name of their favorite charity. Go ahead and buy gifts as usual, but then include something for the charity. After that donation is made in the name of the person, the gift-giver can put a note to that effect in a box, wrap it and put it under the tree along with the other presents.
Don’t get me wrong. Everyone loves to receive gifts — and that’s fine — but couldn’t one of them be a donation to that person’s favorite charity? Or if a person receives cash as a gift, wouldn’t it be nice to set aside some percentage of that for the needy?
Last year, for instance, one of my gifts was a note that said, “Pope Francis would be proud of this.” My “gift” was attached to a catalog from Heifer International, a “charity organization working to end hunger and poverty around the world by providing livestock and training to struggling communities.”
Taking a cue from Pope Francis, who said priests should have the “smell of the sheep” on them, a real-live sheep had been donated in my name to a needy person!
One final idea is to institute a post-Christmas “one in, two out” policy this year. For example, if you receive a new book as a gift, two old books have to leave the house. If you get a new sweater, two older sweaters in your closet get donated. Not only will this practice keep your house from getting overloaded with stuff, it will enkindle in your heart a love “for the least” in this world and an awareness of, and generosity toward, those who do not have the blessings that we enjoy.
Telling those we love — from family members to the unknown, needy refugee or homeless person — that we love them, by word and especially by example, is the best way to honor the Christ Child who showed his deep love by coming to live among us.