|Greatest Gift this Christmas|
A friend came to me with the question; Why is it that the people we love the most seem to hurt us most frequently? Here was my response:
I think the problem with love has to do with expectations. Many times we get hurt because people we love fail to live up to our expectations. Quite honestly, I think many times we expect the other person that we love to be 'perfect'. When that 'perfection' is not met, we feel hurt and disappointed. Of course, when we make mistakes and when it comes to judging ourselves we believe we shouldn't be held to that 'perfect' standard! How can anyone expect us to be perfect after all? In our mind, the standard of perfection applies to our loved ones because they should know better.
Sometimes this expectation of 'perfection' can be a problem even for ourselves. I have a friend who struggles accepting God's love because he feels he is not worthy and has not done enough to warrant God's love. I believe that as a result of our battle with sin, there are times when we do not welcome God and resist His advances towards us.
I have learned a lot about love and expectation through years of reflection on God's love. During my very first spiritual direction meeting my Spiritual Director asked me to list for him the things I do for God. I was very proud to go through my list of, you know, 'accomplishments'. Then his instruction took me by surprise. 'Toss your list of accomplishments away', he said. "From now on, instead of reflecting on the many ways you love God I want you to reflect on how much God loves you."
I have learned so many things by making the daily effort to reflect on God's love for me. For one thing, it became obvious to me how much God has done for me. The truth is I can never do enough to come close to giving back to God what He has given me. I also came to the realization that God loves me unconditionally in spite of all my faults and imperfection. If God, who is perfect, can love me the imperfect -- then I must learn to love others like God loves me. This means accepting and loving others with all their imperfections!
The friend who asked me the question about love finally confessed. He said he was having trouble with a member of the family for several weeks now. He said he didn't know how it all started but he believes he is right and the other person argues she's right. He really wishes for things to get better and wanted to give her something special this Christmas to remind her that he still loves her. 'Do you have any suggestions for the greatest gift', he asked. He said he wanted for the gift to speak volumes how much he loves her.
I responded by telling my friend a story. I told him I was once asked why we couldn't just give people material assistance without having God as part of the help we provide? I was told, 'It seems to me that you guys don't have pure intentions, why can't you help for the sake of helping without bringing your Christ into the situation?' The fact of the matter is; the greatest gift we can give people is the gift of God's presence in their lives. All other material gifts, big or small, are incomplete without sharing God's love with it. I didn't have to say another word to my friend. He said he knew what present he's giving her for Christmas.
Thank you for being Catholic World Mission's friends and supporters throughout this entire year. You made it possible for many people around the world to share in God's presence and love for them.
I hope you find this a helpful reflection as we journey together in this challenging world. And while I prefer not to use this venue to ask for donations, we prayerfully ask you to give what you can. It is never easy being a beggar for Christ; but so many are in need this Christmas season. We need and appreciate your support.
On behalf of all of us at Catholic World Mission we wish and pray for you and your loved ones that all will receive the greatest gift this Christmas season -- the gift of Christ's peace and presence in your daily lives.