(Prayer offered over the Public Address system for the entire La Salle educational community on Tuesday morning, 16 December 2014)
Let us remember we are in God’s holy presence.
Last August, as we were preparing for a trip to Santa’s Village in New Hampshire, there was an incident. One night, right after the girls went up to bed, we heard a shout: “Mom, dad, come here!” We ran right upstairs and found Mia and Maddie in the bathroom, with horrified looks on their angelic faces. Maddie pointed to the sink, which was filled with toothpaste, an empty tube lying on the counter. Mia pointed to the shower, which had been graffitied with shampoo and conditioner, all up and down the walls, two empty containers resting near the drain. Finally, there was a shampoo-saturated facecloth plopped on the floor. “Mackenzie,” they declared. “It must have been Mackenzie.” My wife and I were horrified and angry, but we decided to wait til morning to investigate, since Molly and Mackenzie were snuggled up in their beds, sleeping.
A few hours later we went to bed ourselves. But when my wife walked into our bathroom, she let out a shriek. I ran in and saw her with a horrified look on her angelic face, pointing at the shower door. Sure enough, before that shampoo-soaked cloth wound up on the floor of the girls’ bathroom, it had been used to smear our shower door and our bathroom mirror with shampoo. A bigger problem? – the damage was too high up for it to have been Mackenzie, meaning it must have been Mia and Maddie, and they were trying to pin it on their little sister. We went to bed that night in a rage. Not only had somebody made a giant mess, an ill-intentioned mess, but somebody was probably lying about it too. The next morning I woke up, and went through my morning routine, but as I went to throw my clothes in the hamper I noticed the final piece, the nail in the coffin, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Our hamper and the laundry in it, was covered with toothpaste. What force of evil would do such a thing?
Four months later, my wife and I still don’t know who did what, how it happened, or why it happened. Every line of questioning, every good cop/bad cop routine, every attempt at a plea bargain, every opportunity to throw a sister under the bus was met with an “I don’t know,” or an, “It wasn’t me,” like some twisted childcare song by Shaggy. And while we know it was one of them or more than one of them, each one-on-one conversation left us more confused and frustrated because we actually believed each of them when they said they didn’t know.
A few weeks ago the four suspects, my daughters, compiled their Christmas lists. They love Christmas just like every kid does. But the whole premise of Santa Claus is that he rewards the good little boys and girls with presents while the naughty children, you know, the ones who empty toothpaste in their parents’ laundry and squirt shampoo on the walls, are punished with coal. So what are we to do?
I feel as if I have two angels sitting on my shoulders singing sweetly in my ear. One angel says Santa is a symbol of God’s unconditional love, and that while I don’t approve of my daughters’ behaviors, I love them and should express that love with a gift. Not giving a gift will scar them and they will internalize the shame of not receiving a gift from the saint who gives gifts to all those who are worthy. By not giving a gift I am saying they are not worthy. Another angel says my job is not to raise a child but to grow an adult – and that I will love them by showing that life has consequences, while giving them gifts will only spoil them and reinforce negative behaviors. By not giving a gift I am saying I expect better. By not receiving a gift they will learn a valuable life lesson.
So here is my question: Should Santa come to my house this Christmas or not? Should my four daughters get Christmas gifts? Have they been good enough?
And here is your question: Did you deserve Christmas when you were a child? Do you deserve Christmas this year? Do you deserve the gift? Did you earn it? I mean really earn it? Are we deserving of all that we have?
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, Your Son came and replaced the rulebook with just one rule: love. Give us the wisdom to know how to love when life is complex.
Heavenly Son, you taught us that God’s love for us is unconditional. Help us to see ourselves and others as God sees us and to love accordingly.
Heavenly Spirit, fill us with generosity and compassion this season and always.
St John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.
Matt Daly–Director of Campus Ministry