Gift is another name for love

- Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - February 3, 2016 - 9:00am

It's now becoming a standard practice that during birthday celebrations, the celebrants would profusely thank God for the "gift of life." This expression has become so common it is getting to be a cliché or a meme, and can invariably be expected to be heard on such occasions.

That, of course, should not come as a surprise. It is the least thing one can say on such happy moments. It is really what is proper. But what I would also like to hear is for the celebrants to profusely offer themselves, by way of truly meaning their gratitude, as a gift to God, and because of God, as a gift also to all the others.

This is simply the language of love. That's why a gift is the other name of love. When one is in love, he gives a gift. And when one receives a gift, a certain unspoken law would suggest that he returns the favor. This is the sense of indebtedness that, thanks be to God, is quite developed in our Filipino culture. We call it "utang ng loob" in Tagalog, and "utang kabubut-on" in Bisaya.

Our culture tries to express in some way what truly is in the hearts of people when they are in love or are given a favor or a gift. We do this by giving or exchanging tokens, i.e., certain objects that somehow express how we feel inside toward a person.

But what we should not forget is that what are given and received are not just objects but our own selves. Christ said this very clearly when asked about the greatest commandment which is nothing but loving and giving oneself.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment," Christ said. "The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mt 22,37-39)

From these words we should then understand that we are meant to give ourselves as a gift to God and to the others. This should be our most basic attitude on which all the other considerations in our life have to be built. We are meant to be a gift to God and to everyone else. Are we, at least, aware of this truth? And once aware, are we doing something to live it to the full?

To start developing this basic attitude, we need to consider what God has gifted us in the first place. He has given us the 'gift of life,' and together with it, the gifts of faith, hope and charity. He has given us the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit, and many other, endless things.

All of these, because in the first place God has created us in his very image and likeness. We have been made children of his, which means that what God has is also given to us. This is a tremendous reality for which we can never thank him enough, love him enough, or gift him enough.

Even when we stray from him through sin, which we have done starting with our first parents, God has not stopped to love us. He instead has undertaken a complex work of salvation, sending his own Son to us, and the Son offering his own life as a ransom for our sins. And that redemptive work of his continues up to now through the Church. Can we afford to be indifferent before this overwhelming love of God for us?

We really need to learn to give ourselves as a gift to God first, and then to our neighbor, whoever he is. This is the proper basic attitude and frame of mind to have. Everything else that we think, speak or do has to spring from this attitude.

Thus, we have to give ourselves to God and others with joy, because as St. Paul once said, "God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Cor 9,7) Our self-giving has to be total, and in all seasons.

It has to go beyond the limits of rationality and justice, without any compulsion nor ulterior motive. It has to be done completely out of freedom which is how love is. As Christ himself described it, "Freely you have received, freely give." (Mt 10,8)

We should not be afraid to give because Christ reassured us that what we lose we actually would gain a hundredfold. He himself said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20,35)

We should immerse ourselves in the dynamics of gift-giving that starts and ends with God.

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