“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God” (1 Jn 3:1). These words which open up our second reading this Sunday are very moving. But they receive even greater force when we understand that the word translated as “given” here should instead be rendered with something like “lavished”. Thus : “See what love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God.” We get similar sentiments in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1, where he talks about “the riches of the grace which God has lavished upon us.”
God is not miserly or stingy in giving out his gifts. He is not some great supernatural Scrooge. St John says in chapter of his gospel, that God “does not ration out his Spirit” and elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus speaks of God pouring into our lap “a full measure, pressed down and overflowing.” The reference is to the market day practice in Jesus’ time when people would make a fold in their tunic for the merchant to pour out a measure of grain into it. In my earlier career as an officer with the Weights and Measures department of local government, I was used to checking the optic measures used for doling out spirits in a pub, or the weighing pans used for ladling potatoes into bags. I became aware of the various underhand means merchants would use to short-change shoppers.
God is not like that at all. His heart is full of such love for each one of us, and St Paul says in his letter to the Romans (5:5), that God’s love is “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which he has given to us.” Again, the image is of a lavish overflow from the heart of Father – God into our hearts. There is no problem or restriction on God’s part in giving out his graces. The only problem or restriction is on our part in being willing to receive them. If we hold sin or unforgiveness or self-rejection in our hearts, we restrict our capacity to receive fully from God. Jesus says in Luke’s gospel that the best gift God can give us is his Holy Spirit and in the next few weeks, our readings at Mass will be speaking more and more of this gift of the Spirit and encouraging us to open our hearts to receive more and more of this wonderful gift.