Fr. Glenn: ‘Tis the Season

By Rev. Glenn Jones
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Los Alamos

Many thanks for all those in the community who helped us at IHM with our Angel Tree drive this year—that annual drive for gifts for underprivileged children. We had a LOT of requests, but each year the parish and the community demonstrate their generosity of heart. My worry is always that, on Christmas morning, a glistened-eyed mother might have to report: “Johnny, here’s your present. But, I’m sorry, Mary, Santa ran out of toys.” And hearts break and tears flow. So … thank you all for all that you give and do; may God bless you and keep you this Christmas season and all throughout the new year.

Sometimes the cynical say: “Hmph. That family is just taking advantage of the sincere charity of others! Bah … humbug!” Well, that may be true, and even likely in some cases. However, how do we determine which is which? And if someone is “milking” a charity, it’s certainly not the kids! 

When tempted such concerns, I remember a lady and her sad memory of being a little girl in a poor, rural area in 1950s south Texas. Having many siblings, she related that some would often have to go to school without shoes … all because her father demanded to have beer in the ‘fridge always. Sadly, nowadays, it may still be alcohol, but it may just as easily be weed or coke or heroin; and yet the tragedy remains for the little ones. Very often we can only hope and pray that some goes to those in true need—very much like when donating to relief of third-world areas:  you know that some will be skimmed off by the unscrupulous and the corrupt, but you hope and pray that at least some will get down to those who really need it. Yet, if we don’t give, the needy will certainly get nothing at all. 

Witnessing the memory of that woman and her disappointed hopes made quite an impression decades ago, and now, after years of counseling many persons in and out of confession, patterns of human behavior emerge—some applicable to our Angel Tree situation. 

I’ve had many women (not many men) recall early disappointments of gifts promised and yet not received … at birthdays or Christmas, even weeping over it several decades later—indicative of the scars subsequent of the disappointed hopes of children. This, I think, may be reflective of the seemingly greater innate societal bonding which women exhibit, which is rarer among men. 

Men and boys more often tend toward solitariness and emotional reserve … much to the annoyance of many a wife and mother! And while women seem more social and mutually cooperative/helpful, men tend more to power and domination. These may also be why young women tend to more socially-visible things, while young men may subconsciously feel that doing so sets them up as a challenger to be supplanted—being on top of the hill and thus becoming ripe for challenge (notice how young boys love to play “King of the Hill”, wrestling, and individually-competitive contests).   

Women’s physical power is reserved largely in defense of their children, when the “mama grizzly” mode takes over in a no-holds-barred, consequences-be-damned, defense of their offspring. If you’ve ever watched a bear defending her cubs, or two bulls squaring off in a field, you see much human behavior in microcosm (as much as thousand-pound bulls can be called “micro”!) It’s pretty much the same with males and females in virtually every animal species—especially mammalian—so why would WE be different? 

And yet … we ARE different. Over millennia men have learned to not beat each other over the head with clubs for domination (most of the time) and to seek greater mutual benefit. Both sexes have the human characteristic of reason, abstract thought, and developed morality which, in large part, is very much the same throughout the world: ideals of generosity, integrity, charity, etc. 

We do not have to—and it is certainly not desired—to act on selfish instinct alone, but rather the moral person considers what is best for the extended community as well. A wolf may act for the benefit of his/her pack, but the moral human person acts not only for the benefit of his immediate family and community, but even considers the welfare of those half a world away … extending even to the aid and good of those theretofore considered antagonists or enemies, reflecting the Good Samaritan story of Luke 10. Indeed, this is one of the highest of virtues: to disregard old antagonisms/differences in order to aid whomever might be in real need. 

Hmmm … sounds awfully like “forgiveness”. Sounds like “compassion”.

After all, why do we love images of “Santa”? Because he embodies goodness, generosity, happiness, selfless charity. I would bet many cultures around the world have stories of Santa-like characters of his child-appealing ideal … and when we get old enough, we understand that the ideal was/is very real … embodied—indeed, incarnate—in one who walked the earth 2000 years ago … and yet continues to live today in and through us … in that very generosity and self-giving, which is the ideal throughout the world. So, let us imitate that goodness, and by doing so remembering His Word to us: “The LORD will open to you his good treasury the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands…” (Deuteronomy 28:12)

“…give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail…For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)

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