My classmate, Brendan Ryan, C.S.C., and I had a wonderful opportunity to spend about six weeks in Bangladesh and see the great work that is being done there by Holy Cross. Immediately, we were greeted not only as brothers in Christ but also as brothers in Holy Cross. The same sense of family that I have experienced with Holy Cross here in the United States, I experienced in Bangladesh. A familial spirit that crosses borders of every kind and unites us to one another in Holy Cross and in so doing brings us closer to Christ. Certainly being with my Holy Cross family in Bangladesh was a highlight of the trip.
It is not, however, what has stuck with me most since I have been back home. Rather, the hospitality and the generosity of the Bangladeshi people made the biggest impact on me. With almost every Bangladeshi Christian we met, there was a spirit and willingness to giveand very rarely were they giving out of excess.
Brendan and I were privileged to travel throughout the country and visit many of the places and parishes where Holy Cross is ministering. At each of these places we were met and guided graciously by Holy Cross religious whose work and way of live was inspiring. Perhaps more notably, we were also met with the warm welcome and generosity of the parishioners. For me, the most powerful example of this generosity was our three-week stay at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Srimangal. This parish serves about 70 surrounding villages and almost every day we would visit one or two of these villages.
In the homes of the parishioners, we were received with graciousness and generosity. In much of Bangladesh, the tradition is to welcome visitors with tea and cookies or fresh fruit. Many of these parishioners were not giving to us from their surplus. (Many of the homes we visited had dirt floors and maybe one or two rooms. In some cases they may have been offering us the only mango or pineapple that they had that day.) It was apparent that they were giving out of love.
To receive these gifts was humbling. Towards the halfway point of my time in Bangladesh as I was growing overwhelmed with the generosity of others, I came across Matthew 10:8″Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give.” How fitting a passage it was, how timely the Holy Spirit is! This passage not only summed up my experience of the Bangladeshi people but more importantly helped me to see more clearly my relationship with God. Our Lord Jesus has nothing but gifts to offer and He offers them freely.
This passage and the generosity of others has challenged me not only to be thankful and grateful for all of the gifts that I have been given, but also to be more generous with the gifts and graces that I have received: to follow not only to the example of the Bangladeshi people, but to follow the example of Christ Himself.
When we worship at Mass we hear these beautiful words which remind us that Jesus is the perfect model of giving and thanksgiving: “With eyes raised to heaven to you, O God, His almighty Father, giving you thanks, He said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my Body, which will be given up for you.”
Jesus, Our Lord and Our God, gives thanks for the gift that He has received. If even our God gives thanks for the gift He receives, how much greater should our gratitude be! Yet Jesus not only gives thanks, but immediately offers the gift He has just received away to others. He offers His whole self, His entire being, to us as a gift for the sanctification of the world. Christ calls all of us, all the baptizedand particularly the ordained priest as he offers the Eucharistto do the same, to recognize that all is gift, all is grace. He invites us to give thanks for this grace, and to share it with others.
For me, the culmination of these gifts I received from God while in Bangladeshthe familial spirit of Holy Cross, the blind generosity of so many, and a greater understanding of the giving and thanksgiving of Christ in the Eucharisthas not only encouraged me to be a better and more faithful Holy Cross religious but has also deepened my desire to one day (God willing) be a Catholic priest.
That is certainly a gift to be thankful for!