The gift of self is the high point of all giving, and it happens more often than we realise. Today we honour mothers, and no one doubts the selfless devotion of those who nurture, protect and guide their children. The marriage vows capture another moment of selfless gifting, as bride and groom commit the rest of their lives to each other. The many thousands turning out to commemorate honour Anzac Day show recognition of the courage and bravery that places freedom and country before all else.
But these large and significant examples do not negate the many daily occasions when the good of “me” becomes secondary to the good of someone else or even several others. Pope Francis has given us a great lead on this with his recent writing on holiness, pointing out that we can gift one another with peace and joy by simply exercising our sense of humour! “If we allow the Lord to draw us out of our shell and change our lives, then we can do as St Paul tells us: Rejoice in the Lord always; I say it again, rejoice! [Phil 4:4]
The Pope’s call for us to relax and let our faith work for us, gifting ourselves to others with little acts of kindness and generosity, creates an environment for both personal holiness and healthy community life. He writes, We can get so caught up in ourselves that we are unable to recognise God’s gifts. [see Gaudete et Exultate, N.122-128]
The Ascension brings full circle the gift of God in Jesus and opens a week for us to pray and work for Christian unity. Efforts towards this also require generosity and a willingness to step beyond ourselves for the good of Christianity as a whole. Such self-giving leaves the past behind and looks around in awareness to see what I can do to make the name of Jesus a unifying influence for our troubled and greatly divided world.
The uniqueness of each person is precisely the gift that needs to be given.