Our good friends Steve and Coral had a child the very same day that our son Leo came into the world. Steve posted this on his Facebook page and I thought it was so well said that I asked him if I could share it here as well. Maeve is the name of one of his older children.
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“Morning Steve, would you like to bring up the gifts?”
I was, again, delighted and surprised. I’d never presented the gifts before. Maeve was quick to tell me that she had. I’d never even given the idea much thought beyond thinking that, as a matter of expediency, the people sitting closest to the bread and wine were asked to give it to the priest when the appropriate time came. Not much to it.
But I was suddenly overwhelmed.
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I made a point to get to mass this morning because out of all the feelings that I’ve had over the past few days the one dominant and persistent feeling has been thankfulness.
We made it. 35 ½ weeks, complication after complication, hospital visit after hospital visit, the day finally came. Then Cesarean, then neonatal intensive care, then leaving the hospital without our daughter – but we made it. We made it and she’s perfect and lovely and we are crazy about her. I am so thankful – for my wife, my youngest daughter, my kids, my life – I thank God for it all.
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I said “ Yes, of course.”
“Great! We had the baby!”
Then, standing, I look up at the stained-glass window above the tabernacle and the image of Christ on the cross and I think, “Bring up the gifts? What gift can I bring? What thing could I present that could possibly show my gratitude?” How could anything that I offer show the depth of humility I felt holding that sweet baby and knowing that I did nothing to bring her here safe and sound, I did nothing to deserve her, I can do nothing to keep her – She is 100% blessing and grace. She is the gratuitous love of God poured out on me, my wife and our family.
So, I’m standing there with tears puddling in the corners of my eyes (okay, streaming down my face) and now, finally, I’m thinking about the gifts. What are they? What does that mean, the gifts? Indeed, I have nothing to offer- no thing, no deed that could be credited to me as my own. The Bible puts it this way, “every good and perfect gift is from above.” So then what am I doing? And it strikes me in a new and poignant way that even the gifts I offer, the gifts that we offer together, come from above. We know that God looks with favor and love on the offering that Jesus made on our behalf. We know he did then and we know that he does now when we do this in remembrance of Him. But while the offering is ours – its only ours because it is a gift from above. St. Augustine said that “when God crowns our merits, he crowns nothing else but his own gifts.”
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I hand the wafers to Maeve, take the wine in my hands, and as we approach the altar I’m acutely aware that I have nothing to give but that which I have been given. And I have been given so much.