Give and it shall be given to you. Luke 6:38
According to the wisdom of the world, if you give something away, you are diminished, but according the wisdom of God, if you give something away, you are enriched. I experienced this paradox in spades over the Christmas holidays.
With both schools out — Saint Meinrad Seminary and Bellarmine University — I was looking forward to a clear calendar and some time to do some of the personal things I have been putting off for some time. In short, I was looking forward to doing as much of nothing as possible.
But the time filled up with funerals, special Masses and mandatory attendance at various events. Rather than all of this being a series of aggravations, they became a series of unexpected blessings and intense spiritual experiences.
One of my last uncles, by marriage, died. It was not unexpected. What was unexpected was that I had the chance to baptize him on his death bed.
The Catechism of The Catholic Church says: “By Baptism, all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God.”
What a blessing it was for me to be able to do that for him before he died.
On Dec. 14, I drove down to Meade County, Ky., to celebrate Christmas with my brothers and sisters and brothers-in-law. It is a simple, stress-less celebration. We don’t exchange presents. I have Mass in the living room. We remember especially our parents and relatives that have died and gone before us. We remind ourselves that we still have each other, something we may not be able to say next year. We eat a big potluck dinner, and of course, retell stories from growing up with lots of teasing and laughing.
It’s amazing, but my sisters and brothers do not fight and argue and hold grudges against each other. Knowing that’s not universally true for all families, I left there feeling I was carrying a gift the size of my car.
For the third year in a row, I volunteered to add an extra Mass to my schedule on Christmas Eve for those who are grieving and find it hard to attend traditional parish Christmas Masses. Two-hundred-twenty people crowded into the small chapel at Bellarmine. As they arrived, I stood out front to greet them.
I heard some truly amazing soul wrenching stories about loss through suicide, auto accidents, heart attacks, murder, cancer and other diseases.
“He was OK one day and dead the next!” one person said.
“My husband died yesterday,” said another.
“My wife died two weeks ago and today is our anniversary,” one man said.
“He shot himself on Christmas Eve two years ago,” said another worshipper.
As Mass began, with so many tragic stories ringing in my ears, I realized how blessed I was to be able to do that Mass for them. I have never felt more appreciated than I did when I left that night.
Father J. Ronald Knott