By Andrew Kreye
It may not be a popular opinion, but I think socks make great gifts.
- Everybody wears them. (Well, maybe not if you’re a Franciscan…)
- They can be fun! (I have some pretty sweet turtle socks.)
- If you have too many socks, you can give them away. (Socks are a big need among people who are homeless.)
Unfortunately, receiving the same gift over and over can get a little boring. Even when it’s socks. Which means I actually have to come up with new ideas for gifts.
I don’t know about you, but coming up with gift ideas is not my strong suit.
I usually go through about 5 different ideas, finally decide on something, and then I switch back to the first idea at the last second.
OR I realize that my idea is either impossible or ridiculously impractical and just do something random instead. Like buying a plaster chicken and coloring it.
Then there’s all the anticipation of wondering, “Are they going to like it???” And you have to decide how to wrap the gift, and what kind of paper you should use…
Gift-giving is not for the faint of heart.
But, if you want to learn how to be a good gift-giver, I know the perfect teacher!
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” – John 20:22
“Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” – Genesis 2:7
There are two parts to every gift: giving and receiving. It’s best when both are done well.
Three things to keep in mind when giving a gift are preparation, content, and presentation.
When you give a gift to a person, you need to be prepared. You need to figure out what their interests are and find something that they want or something they would ask for.
And if you’re REALLY prepared, there’s a gift tag with the person’s name on it because a good gift is intended for a specific person.
The content of the gift is also important.
Imagine if someone gave you a gift. “Oh, I feel so special!” you may think. But then you find out that the same person gave 50 other people the exact same gift. You wouldn’t feel as special, right?
Lastly, when you give a gift to someone, you need to present it well. Usually the gift is covered in some fancy paper or in a bag, and sometimes there’s a ribbon or bow. However it’s presented, it’s done in a way that shows you care about the person receiving the gift.
A gift should be given out of love and respect, not necessity. A gift is given willingly, not out of duty.
God does all of this perfectly when He gives the gift of the Holy Spirit.
He prepared to give the Holy Spirit through Jesus and the prophets like Ezekiel: “Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones, and say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Listen! I will make breath enter you so you may come to life.” – Ezekiel 37:4-5
The content of God’s gift is perfect, because it is always needed, it is always asked for, and it is always intended for a specific person.
God also presents His gift perfectly. The Holy Spirit is given wrapped in the mystery of God’s perfect and unconditional love for you.
We will never be as good at giving gifts as God, but He shows us how it’s done!
“They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:10-11
In giving, we grow in generosity. In receiving, we grow in humility. And through both, we gain a greater capacity for charity.
It can be difficult to receive gifts well, especially when you don’t feel like you deserve it. But remember that it is important to allow others to give. By receiving a gift from someone, you can help that person to grow in virtue as well.
The story of the wise men visiting Jesus in Bethlehem is a good example of gift-giving. They gave gifts to Jesus while receiving the gift of the Incarnation.
“Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit that he gave us” – 1 John 4:13
The Holy Spirit is always ready to give us gifts! That is, if we ask for them.
“The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.” – CCC 1830-1831
The gifts of the Holy Spirit make virtue perfect. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, we cannot perfect virtue in ourselves. Only God can do that.
We should always be praying for the Holy Spirit to give us his gifts! A life without virtue is a life of slavery, restriction, and fear. Only through a life of virtue can we become fully alive and free in Christ.
Charity, generosity, patience, humility, chastity, modesty, temperance. These are not impediments to a happy or enjoyable life; they are precisely the actions and habits of the most joyful and fulfilled people to ever live! They are the habits of the saints!
The Catechism says that the gifts of the Holy Spirit make us docile to his promptings. This doesn’t lessen our freedom but enhances it! As we become more cooperative with God’s will, we move closer to who we are each made to be.
Following God’s will is the only way for us to be truly satisfied, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are what allow us to follow God’s will.
So, when you don’t know what to do, ask for the Holy Spirit to give you counsel. When you’re afraid, ask for courage. When you’re tired, ask for fortitude.
When you’re confused, ask for understanding. When you teach others, ask for wisdom. When you need to learn, ask for knowledge. When you lose your excitement for your faith, ask for piety.
And when you lose your awe of God or become indifferent about temptations, ask for the fear of the Lord that will remind you of the authority and infinite power of God.
Ask the Holy Spirit to accompany you always! Don’t let a day pass without depending upon God like a child because you are His child! Ask for gifts because He is waiting to give them!
God wants you to be holy, to overcome temptation, and to be with Him for eternity! All we need to do is to ask for His help and to learn to receive it well.
Veni Sancte Spiritus! Come, Holy Spirit!
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” – Romans 8:14-17