Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Unexpected Gifts

This morning my roommate/marathon-partner, Tom, who is a pilot, took me up on a Cesna for breakfast in York, PA. He's building his flight time and takes these trips regularly. It was a very, very fun time.

After returning home, I drove to visit a friend and his wife for lunch and to help him to prepare to give a lecture at a conference in Peru, speaking Spanish. He doesn't really speak Spanish, but working from his own text translated by the conference organizers, I believe he'll do just fine. It was cool to be able to help him prepare because among the attendees will be a large number of devout families, priests, and a few bishops and cardinals.

When I returned home from lunch and helping my friend prepare for his lecture, I saw an Amazon box sitting on the front step. "Ooooh! Amazon," I thought. I love Amazon deliveries. Even though I am the principal recipient of them at our house, and even though I myself place the orders, deliveries always make me feel special - and I know I am not alone in this, people. But then I grew glum, thinking, "I didn't order anything from Amazon. Shoot, it must be for one of my roommates." I turned it over and read the label, and whaddya know, it was for me, and the return address was that of a friend from my parish. I was too surprised to register. Opening the box, I saw it was a book, Commentary on New Testament Use of the Old Testament. This particular book has been atop my Amazon wishlist since it came out in 2007 and will be a terribly useful reference for biblical scholars for years to come. And this friend bought it for me spontaneously, just because, because he is a kind and generous man - manifested in my mind numerous times long before this, especially with his commitment to the youth of our parish.

I love debts of gratitude. Debts of gratitude are different from debts of account because they are not calculated in dollars and cents and they are not paid back. Rather, they are paid forward, to borrow a nice phrase. They might even be paid forward to the person to whom we feel grateful. But they aren't paid as a matter of obligation, but as a matter of love. A gift freely given inspires in a healthy recipient a free response, in some direction. The repayment or the forward-payment of debts of gratitude is not intended to clear the debt, but to perpetuate it and deepen it, to draw more people into it. There is no tit-for-tat, but rather a response of grace for grace, free gift for free gift, and neither size nor shape are measured against each other. Instead, heart meets heart. Before long, a number of people feel a great desire to give not only their things, but really parts of themselves, as it were, to their neighbors and friends. Instead of lending and repaying money, we invest ourselves and are blessed by others. Gratitude inspires a sort of calculation that is exactly the opposite of either capitalism or socialism. Gratitude builds an economy of love.

There is nothing like gratitude to build those two beautiful forms of charity: piety and friendship. It is really important to do kind and generous things for others. If done selflessly, such deeds are magnanimous and share in the most magnanimous charity ever, that of our Lord for us. It is also really important to let others do kind and generous things for us when they are so moved. The graceful reception of such kindness not only humbles our pride, but may build up the giver's sense of sharing in divine grace, which can only lead to more grace. When we refuse gifts, while there is sometimes a genuine and legitimate desire to avoid unnecessary entanglements, there is also often a refusal to be humbled. What a sad condition!

Lol, all this is to say thanks to those men who blessed me today. I'll put personal notes in the mail. Except to you, Tom. I live with you. That would be dumb. How 'bout I buy you a milkshake after our next run?

No comments: