A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Opening the Book of Your Life

By Fr Kevin Bates SM

At a lovely dinner with a family a few nights ago, a fresh-faced 15-year-old tells the story of the special Christmas present she had requested from her extended family last year. Being a lover of books, she had asked each family member to choose and gift her with a favourite book.

She received quite a collection, with “Moby Dick” providing the toughest reading assignment. A highlight was the George Eliot 1871 classic, “Middlemarch.” The copy, given to her by her grandfather, had belonged to her late grandmother. It was filled with annotations and under-linings, enabling her to read the book through her grandmother’s eyes.

This very inventive project leads us to reflect on the ways in which great stories have their impact on us. In this case, the impact was born of the story itself, along with the gift it became and special spirit that came to light through the gift.

St Paul talks about the way in which the life and death of each of us has its effect on others, reminding us that our life is not just about us. This is something we all know but a reminder now and then is not a bad idea in a society where our individual rights and needs can obscure our awareness of belonging with each other.

When we are brave enough to open the book of our life for others, a whole new world becomes available to them. The joys, talents, achievements and insights we have gathered along the way can serve as entertainment and indeed nourishment for those receiving our gift. 

Alongside these, our sufferings, unanswered questions, foibles and failures fill out the tapestry of our story and in turn provide nourishment and worthy lessons for our hearers and readers. 

Through each of our life stories, something of the mystery of God can be glimpsed. God’s joy, truth, mercy and compassion play their part in every one of our stories and form an essential binding for the book of each of our lives. 

This binding can be unnoticed and even seem to go missing. In this, the central meaning of our book of life can be hidden or even denied. The pages no longer hold together in the way we would wish and can even disintegrate.

Jesus opens his book of life for us as the best possible model for our own life story. His story is grounded in a love for the One who is intimately present from the conception to the closure of his story. 

In Jesus’s book of life, love is revealed as the way through which each of our life-stories will find meaning and homecoming. Here we learn where love is to be found, what love means, what love requires and how love survives. Here we come to understand that love endures all things, all our sufferings, doubts, angers, fears. Love is the most resilient quality that will bind the pages of our book. On love we can always rely.

However, this love does not write the story of our life for us. With all the gifts entrusted to us, we take this love and mould it to form our own unique story, a story never before told or lived. 

We give this love our own shape and energy and invest it with our own blessing in order that it may become a fresh blessing in turn for others and find a place in the story of their lives. 

Next time you gift someone with a book that you’ve chosen for them, remember that you are entrusting them with something of yourself and in that you are providing them with a sacred glimpse into your own heart. 

It’s rather wonderful how a simple gift offered in love, can enliven and nourish the heart of another. We give something of ourself away and love is refreshed and re-born. It feels a bit like Eucharist!

P.S. Thank you Beth!

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