Why Gift During Advent?
The Giving in Faith & Thankfulness (GIFT) campaign was recently introduced in the Archdiocese on the first weekend of Advent. While some wonder why such a call for financial support should be made in this period, Anne Goswami, a volunteer with the Catholic Foundation, reflects on how it has instead deepened her Advent experience.
On the first weekend of Advent this year, the Catholic Foundation introduced the Giving in Faith & Thankfulness (GIFT) campaign in the archdiocese. It calls for Catholics in Singapore to gather in greater support of the vision of the archdiocese, particularly in providing financial support.
But why was a fundraising campaign introduced during Advent? Does it seem like we are placing greater emphasis on money than on Christ?
Though I understand why some might have this concern, I have found, upon reflecting on the purpose and message of GIFT, that it has in fact deepened my experience of Advent. In many ways, the campaign is more than just about fundraising. To me, it is truly what it has called itself—a rallying call.
I have always found Advent beautiful, because of how bittersweet it can be. It is both a joyful anticipation of the birth of Jesus, as well as a sober reminder to stay awake and prepare for the second coming of Christ.
We see this most clearly in the Mass readings of each Advent weekend, where we are faced with a constant mix of melancholy and joy, of caution and hope.
On the first weekend of Advent, Jesus Himself warns, “stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming” (Mt 24:42). On the second weekend, St John the Baptist declares, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand” (Mt 3:2).
Then on the third Advent weekend, there is hope, “The blind see again, and the lame walk… the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Mt 11:5). And on the weekend before Christmas, there is great joy, “Look! The virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Immanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’” (Mt 1:23).
In a similar sense, the GIFT campaign has brought with it a bittersweet message that has helped deepened the Advent message for me to stay awake, but at the same time, remain hopeful in all the Lord has planned.
Stay Awake, Stand Ready
The call to stay awake reminds me that I need to cooperate with God in my own redemption and in the redemption of others.
The GIFT campaign has shown me some startling realities that are chilling reminders of how our Church is actually struggling: only a third of Catholics in Singapore are attending Mass every weekend; there is a decreasing number of youths in the Church; and there might not be enough priests for our Church in the near future.
These statistics have urged me to really reflect on my own level of participation in the life of the Church, and how I am actively contributing to support the work of the saints. The saints, a word that we all too often make light of, but in fact, refers to all of us in the Church.
A Future Full of Hope
Though there might be gloom on the situation we find our archdiocese in today, I am thankful to also learn of a very hopeful future—the archdiocese’s vision to be a more vibrant, missionary and evangelistic Church.
I am told that there is so much that is being done behind the scenes. Several new organisations have been established in the archdiocese, while some have been restructured or expanded.
Learning of how so many organisations in the archdiocese have been escalating their efforts, and how several building projects and other initiatives have been set in motion, fills me with much hope and gratitude for God’s movement in our local Church.
At times I find it unfortunately easy to overlook how God works constantly but silently in the Church, and I cannot help but be reminded of just how God has, in the same way, been working in my life. God has truly blessed me with a wonderful family, work, friends, and the most precious of all, the gift of Christ.
So this Advent, as I put up the Christmas tree, wrap presents and prepare for a meal with my loved ones, I have also pledged a monthly contribution to the archdiocese.
I pledge because I trust that God will perform miracles with my gifts, no matter how small or broken. That He would help His children stand ready for His second coming, and bring more to discover “Immanuel”, that truly, God is with us.