Gifts We Have Yet to Open

Use Advent to consider the gifts in our hearts, which remain unopened, never shared

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Father David BonnarSome time ago, when I was a young priest in my first pastorate, I received a beautifully ornate clock as a Christmas gift from a parishioner. It came from an older woman and her husband who were, as they say, “pillars of the Church.” I gravitated toward this woman because of her effusive personality, love for the Church and resemblance to my dear mother. She also loved to laugh, which made her fun to be around. Sadly, I buried this woman not too long ago.

In any event, this lovely gift came wrapped. When I unwrapped it, there was a photo of the clock on the outside of the box so there was no need to open the box right then and there. Actually, in hindsight, you will see, it was providential that I did not open the box as it would have been embarrassing.

A few days later I had a moment to open the box so that I could prominently set it on my bookshelf. When I opened it up I discovered, much to my surprise, that there was an engraved plate with the husband’s name on it that read, “Congratulations on your retirement.” It was obvious at that moment that Annie had regifted a gift. She likely never opened the box. Little did she know that the clock was specialized for her husband. Given our relationship, I felt comfortable sharing this news with her. The look on her face was priceless. She later presented me with a new plate with my name on it.

The moral to this little story is: When you receive a gift, be sure to open it.

How many gifts are currently in our possession that we have yet to open? Perhaps they are resting on a shelf in the closet or sitting in the attic. How long have they been without use? What is it that holds us back from not only opening these gifts but using them?

Perhaps these gifts lie dormant because we are just too busy. The hustle and bustle of ministry make it difficult to address these gifts, which accumulate over time. Perhaps these gifts remain unopened and unused because we have too much already. In other words, our lives are so full that there is little room for anything else in our lives. While so many of these gifts are expressions of love and support, in our lifestyle we simply do not need many of them. One of the priests with whom I live has a tradition whereby every year he goes through his closet and passes on whatever he has not used in that past year. This is one good way to not become a hoarder.

And yet, it is often hard to let go of these gifts because of their sentimental value. There is something in our minds that leads us to believe that we will use them one day. Years later, these gifts remain in their original state.

The whole idea of gift-giving and gift-receiving is part of the flow of the Advent/Christmas season. Many of us use the Advent season to purchase or make gifts, while Christmas is the time to give and receive gifts, all in the name of Jesus Christ, the greatest of gifts.

Although there will be great focus on finding the right gift for the loved ones in our lives, we might use the reflective time of Advent to consider the gifts in our hearts, which remain unopened and never shared with others. More specifically, what gifts from our priestly ordination and the graces therein have we yet to share? What gifts have remained stored and unused in the deep recesses of our hearts?

One gift we all no doubt need to share more of is fraternity. We share a brotherhood through ordination that transcends generations, races, languages and communities. We are priests — brothers in the Lord Jesus.

I have an older priest friend who, when we get together for a meal or do something nice for one another, often says, “We have to do this for one another, for we are priests.”

My Christmas wish for you is a deeper spirit of priestly fraternity. We need it! But the Church needs it even more. Happy Advent! Merry Christmas! 

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 15 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. To share your thoughts on this column or any others, follow The Priest on Twitter @PriestMagazine and like us on Facebook.

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