The Imperfect Gift of Self

It’s one week into Lent –  how are you doing? Are you keeping your resolutions? Or are you feeling that what you are doing is “not quite good enough?”

This reflection from Fr. Dino Vanin, PIME is a great reminder that God lovingly accepts the small gifts we give him, however imperfect they may be, and that even if our love is lacking, we need to share the “gift of self” with others.

The image of your typical family refrigerator door popped up in my mind. The latest “masterpieces” displayed on it have, of course, no value in the eyes of even the most benevolent art critic, yet they are given considerable value by the one who, carefully, appreciatively, puts them there so that she can be reminded that they represent much more than what her minuscule artists could do for her.

The children find in Mom’s eyes all the encouragement they need to continue to produce their “artwork” thus learning that they should not wait until they are accomplished painters to give her a token of their love. And Mom is very appreciative of what she receives from them for it is the very best at that stage of their development.

Similarly, our gift of self should be given to our beloved now, such as it is, perhaps a bit bruised, with plenty of room for improvement, without waiting for us to feel beyond reproach, as close to perfection as we might strive to become.

If we are the recipient of one’s gift of self, we might train our heart to convey also through eloquent body language how much value we attribute to his/her gift.
After all, this is what we are expected to be and to do in the Body of Christ.

Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:3-5

In his book The Eucharist, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa teaches us how, by doing Eucharist again and again, we can improve our gift of self to others. He suggests that as the priest says Jesus’ words of institution we might renew our intention to give of our self to others by saying quietly something to this effect: “This is my body too and, with the help of Jesus’ Spirit, I am willing to have it broken for you.” “This is also the chalice of my blood that, with the help of Jesus’ Spirit I am willing to pour out for you.” By repeating our gift of self we may become more and more Christ-like.

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