Fr. Johnny Go S.J., School Director
High School Christmas Homily
15 December 2006
Today I’d like to tell you a different kind of Christmas story, and I’ve decided to call it “The Mysterious Christmas Shopping Bag.”
Once there was a boy who wanted to have a perfect Christmas. But he was so acquisitive that his idea of a perfect Christmas was one when he could have everything he ever wanted. His all-time Christmas wish was to be able to shop in every single mall and to possess everything in sight. But of course as we know, that was not possible—at least not possible until one day outside a church when he met a strange old beggar who knew the acquisitive boy’s heart. Knowing the boy’s desire, the beggar offered him a mysterious black bag.
“This,” he said, “is a very special shopping bag—a Christmas shopping bag: You can put anything in here, everything your heart desires: the latest toy, the fastest computer, the most high-tech gadget. All of that you can stuff into this bag—and more! And they will all fit. There is no limit to what you can put inside this bag!”
Although he was skeptical, the boy grabbed the mysterious bag, and immediately headed for the nearest shopping mall. As it turned out, the beggar was right. The boy could stuff any number of things into the shopping bag, and the best part was, no one could even tell there was anything inside the bag. In other words, he could walk out of any store without having to spend a cent. So the boy tossed in the latest cell phone and a laptop computer, and they both fit. He threw in the latest Xbox 360, and there was no problem. He even managed to stuff a mountain bike into it, and the bag still looked empty. The boy could not believe his luck.
That day he went on a shopping spree like no other: He ran from store to store with his mysterious Christmas shopping bag, racing from mall to mall, filling his shopping bag with all sorts of toys, gadgets, clothes—whatever he could lay his eyes on and his hands on. Finally, at the end of the day, he went home exhausted, but excited about all his new possessions. As soon as he reached his room, he locked the door and emptied the shopping bag. But to his horror, the bag was empty. He found nothing: no cell phone, no Xbox, no mountain bike—none of what he had stuffed into the bag. Everything that he had taken was nowhere in sight. They had all disappeared!
Feeling deceived, he hurried back to the church, where he found the strange beggar who had given him the bag. The boy showed the empty shopping bag to the beggar: “I can’t find any of the things that I put in here today! You said I could have everything that I wanted!”
The strange beggar shook his head sadly. “I’m afraid you misunderstood,” he told the boy, “All I said was that the bag could contain anything you want to put in it. I never said you could keep what you put inside it.”
The boy could not believe his ears. He stared at the empty bag. “What mysterious sort of bag is this anyway?” he asked.
The beggar replied, “It’s no mystery. The bag is your heart, a heart so full of human desires. Human desires have no limits, but in the end they only leave you empty.”
At this, the boy fell silent, for he knew that the beggar spoke correctly. How true: When we allow our hearts to be ruled by human desires, our hearts can turn into that mysterious shopping bag. There is no end to the things we can put in there because there is no limit to what we can desire, the things that we want to possess. We find ourselves wanting more and more, sometimes even losing sleep over the things we desire. We keep trying to keep up with others on all the latest things we can possess. We are never satisfied because we will never run out of things to want and to desire. To make things worse, once we actually possess the things we want so much, the excitement almost immediately fades, leaving our hearts almost immediately empty.
We must be careful lest like the boy in the story, we spend this Christmas running around with a heart like that mysterious shopping bag: constantly wanting things and hoarding things, but in the end, only to be left feeling empty.
But that’s not the end of the story. The boy was about to walk away when the beggar did something even stranger. He turned the empty shopping bag inside out, and suddenly the bag magically expanded in size and grew full—bursting with all the things the boy had acquired that day.
“You see,” the beggar said, “all you have to do is turn the bag inside out, it will become full. But the bag will remain full if and only if instead of keeping all the things to yourself, you give them away, and you share them with others. With the bag turned inside out, you will never run out of things to give and share.”
As the beggar returned the bag to the boy, he said “Merry Christmas!” and disappeared.
I told you this strange little tale because I think it can teach us a valuable and timely lesson about Christmas. What is Christmas without gifts? But if we’re not careful, we might miss the whole point of Christmas and end up with a distorted view.
Contrary to what we are often led to think, Christmas is not about getting what we want. It’s not about human desire. As we saw in the story, human desire is bottomless—what we desire is endless and is without limit—but in the end, like what happened to the boy in the story, it only leaves us exhausted and our hearts empty.
Rather, Christmas is about divine love, which is so different from human desire. While human desire is about wanting stuff and hoarding stuff, but ironically being left empty, divine love is about giving away stuff, sharing stuff with others, and yet remaining mysteriously full. The best example of this, of course, is the very first gift ever given in all the history of Christmas. And I’m referring not to the wise men’s gifts nor the shepherds’ sheep nor the angel’s song. These were among the very first Christmas gifts, but I am referring to the first and original gift that created Christmas: the infinitely precious gift of God’s only Son, when God gave of himself totally. God shows us that Christmas is about total giving, sharing all of ourselves, and in the process, becoming mysteriously full.Let us not allow ourselves to be misled by the commercialization of Christmas. This Christmas turn your heart inside out and learn the secret of Christmas: Let us follow the example of the God of Christmas, and we will never run of things to give and share. This Christmas may God keep our hearts always full!
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