SYDNEY, Australia, DEC. 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- As Christmas approaches, and the season of gift-giving gets into full swing, the archbishop of Sydney is reminding the faithful to give thanks for the most valuable gifts of all -- the gifts of faith and family.
Cardinal George Pell reflected on the practice of gift giving in a homily last Sunday at the Holy Family Parish in Maroubra, a suburb of Sydney.
"Like anyone else, I am grateful for the Christmas presents I receive," the cardinal began, adding that there is nothing wrong with exchanging gifts. "Gift giving is a proper expression of faith when located within a richer understanding of Christmas and when our gift giving is not restricted to family and friends."
He explained that some gifts should go to those in need, and that "gifts taken as material or consumer exchanges will always be hollow and transient."
"But real gifts," Cardinal Pell continued, "inspired by inclusive love, are a reflection of the most powerful love of all -- the love of God who loved the world so much, he sent his only Son; the incomprehensible love of Christ, born of the Virgin Mary in the lowliest of stables."
The archbishop of Sydney recalled as well that "gifts are more than what we find under the tree on Christmas morning."
He reflected that the Church is currently observing a Year for Priests, and that Benedict XVI has invited the faithful to consider "with heartfelt gratitude on the immense gifts which priests represent."
"This deep reflection on the character of the ordained priesthood is fitting as we recall the birth of Christ, both the High Priest and the perfect sacrifice," he added.
Cardinal Pell then spoke of "the greatest gift that Christ has given us."
"After giving us all he could, Jesus Christ wishes in addition to bequeath us his most precious possession, his Blessed Mother," the cardinal said, again quoting Father Vianney.
"We must always think of Mary as the model follower of Christ," he continued. "Full of faith, loving, loyal, strong and persevering, Mary is the ideal to which we should aspire."
The cardinal added: "Christmas is also a particular time for remembering the love and sacrifices of our parents, above all the beautiful calling of womanhood to participate in the loving creative plan of bearing and raising children and sustaining and supporting their men."
"Let us all be thankful of the gifts that Christ has bestowed on us this Christmas," Cardinal Pell concluded. "The gifts of faith, of priests, of our families.
"Even when we have big problems, we also have gifts beyond counting. Above all let us reflect the gifts of Christ's love and redemption by offering our own lives as gifts of love for Christ the High Priest and King."