The Spirituality of Giving
As Christmas and its tradition of gift-giving draws near, Msgr Philip Heng SJ encourages Catholics to reflect on the spirituality that inspires every act of giving.
It has become a cultural phenomenon of our century that on Christmas each year, people of all races and religions around the world will take part in the practice of sharing gifts.
While it is indeed a beautiful thing that Christmas celebration and joy are shared even amongst non-Christians, secular rhetoric that focuses on the buying and exchange of material goods often also distracts Christians from the deep spirituality that exists behind every act of giving.
As Christians, the act of giving is central in our lives, and is not confined within just this advent season alone. As we prepare for the coming of our Lord, let us once again reflect on what it truly means to give, and why we are called upon to give.
A deeper generosity
At a deeper level, the act of giving can be our expressions of gratitude, generosity and most importantly, our love for God.
Have we ever read about, known or lived with people who we consider truly “saintly”? What is it about them that touched our hearts?
If we reflect deeply, we will realise that they share one common value: a selflessness that is life-giving.
They draw joy in giving, regardless of the sacrifices, pain and trials they encounter. We see this in the love parents shower on their children, for instance, or in the care that friends show toward one another.
What matters most for such selfless persons is their love for others. In bringing up her children, a mother endures much exhaustion, anxieties and fears. But even in the midst of hardship, a simple smile on her children’s faces is sure to lift her spirits to new heights.
From this simple example we see that “giving” is most meaningful, purposeful and fruitful, when the act is driven by love. But this is not always easy to do.
To truly give in a way that is filled with gratitude, generosity and God-centeredness, we must have God’s graces to give us the wisdom to love as Jesus has shown us how to love.
Loving as we have been loved
This is the spirituality which in fact exists in every act of selfless giving. When we speak of “Christian spirituality”, we are speaking about the way we live our lives and how it is related to God. As Christians, our lives are inseparable from our relationship with Jesus.
“Christ-like love” is a selfless love that calls us to get in touch with the divine love that is innately present in our hearts. When we are moved by this innate love, we will realise that what matters most in life is God’s love for us and our need to reciprocate this divine love in the way we live each day. Why is this so?
The fundamental truth about our lives is that firstly, God has loved us into existence. In other words, it is because God loves us so infinitely that He decided to create and bring us into this world.
Secondly, all that we have received and what we are today comes from God’s abundant blessings—the gift of our life, family and most importantly, the gift of faith that in turn brings us the gift of eternal life and happiness with God.
The “spirituality of giving” can be understood as the expressions of our gratitude to God for all that we have received from Him. Because God has created us out of love, deep within each person’s heart lies the desire to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves.
If we are not moved by this truth, then this advent is the time to remind ourselves again of God’s grace in our lives, and to act in faith and thankfulness that “we should be called children of God; and that is what we are” (1 John 3:1).