Our lives should be oriented to the things that are most important. And the thing that is most important, that is guaranteed to make you happy, is to give of yourself.
We forget about that. Because most of the marketing in the entire world is designed around getting you to buy things. But what’s the most important gift you can give to someone else? Is it a bauble, a jewel or a watch? It is love, unencumbered love. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re all searching for: God who is love. That’s why St. Augustine wrote, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”
When you fulfill the needs of others, you fulfill your own needs without realizing it. That’s what Jesus Christ, who brought salvation, directs us to do. When a scribe tried to trap him, his answer was: Love God with all your heart, soul and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.
Yes, you are supposed to love yourself. And then you’re supposed to love your neighbor that way. How does the other person feel loved and receive healing? We get stuck on the “loving ourselves” part and forget to go out and love our neighbor.
Here’s an example. There’s a husband and wife at a particular parish. They have their own family. And they have a parish family. They send out emails about voting issues, about feast days and holidays, about special deals they see and also news articles to help people see the world from an altruistic perspective. This couple also helps with diaper drives and food drives. They don’t give up their whole life. But their whole life is about giving.
If we go to the source — God’s love — we’ll have plenty of love to give to everyone else. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of loving your neighbor as yourself. On January 1, we shouldn’t go back to: me, me, me. If we would just stop and reflect on how it was when we were serving others, we’d stay focused on that year-round.
The beauty you get from giving isn’t in the recognition you may get. It’s in knowing that you gave. And if you keep your eyes open and really pay attention to what God is saying, you’ll get recognition in ways you can’t even imagine. It’s not always in the ways you expect. It will be in the ways that God wants to give to you. And it will be amazing!
Larry Smith is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver. Visit online
at ccdenver.org or call 303-742- 0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.