Accept the Gift

Antonio Zebedeo Abad, June 8, 2021

At a workshop, I was seated next to a sheep farmer and engaged him in conversation. I asked him how the market was for lamb. He said something fascinating. Most of the lamb they produce goes to New Zealand because they like US lamb. And much of New Zealand lamb is imported to the US because that’s what the market prefers.

I guess it’s not too surprising. Some of those who have curly hair want straight hair and vice-versa. Some of those who have blonde hair want black hair and vice-versa. What is exotic becomes an object of desire. Someone with black hair in a predominantly blonde population will be so admired; whereas, someone with blonde hair in a predominantly black hair population will be so admired as well.

In elementary school, I get teased very much for my big nose. It comes from my paternal grandmother’s family. Someone even wrote in chalk on my violin case – big nose! Well, many years later, when I was studying voice, my teacher told me that I have a good advantage in resonance with my big nose just like his.

The point is, we are never content with what we have. Someone always has something better. The grass may look greener on the other side, but not until you see it up close and you get to see the brown spots and the weeds. All you have to do is water, fertilize, and seed your own lawn. Nurture what you have. Accept your God-given gift, for He created us all in His image and likeness. For in our qualities lay what God has in store for us. A big heavyset guy with the right nimbleness could do well in US football or rugby, but as a jockey would weigh the horse down.

When the first Apple iPhone was launched, it was unbelievable how long the lines were that went around the block and onto the next block. They wanted to have the latest and greatest and wanted it now. It is the overwhelming demand that was created and fulfilled by a big supply. And there was no thought of tempering desire.

Two of the biggest industries today are illegal drugs and pornography that show no temperance of desire. If the demand is there, the supply will fill it no matter what the cost, legal or illegal. If there is no demand for it, the supply will not exist. It is the coveting of what someone else has.

One of the biggest exports of the US is Hollywood-produced motion pictures. There is a formula for blockbuster success that inevitably includes foul language, sex, and violence, not to mention special effects, sometimes done for its own sake. Remove the special effects and what is left of the motion picture? That’s why the indie films and film festivals are thriving because they choose alternate approaches to production. And as a big export of the US seen by a global population, what impression does it give the world of US culture? They even learn foul language and ill manners and think it’s cool because the actors do them and they are seen as cool.

In the middle ages, during the reign of Ferdinand of the Kingdom of Aragón and Isabella of the Kingdom of Castile, the concept of land ownership started. There was no such country known as Spain, and historians would refer to that land as the Iberian peninsula. Ferdinand and Isabella married and united their kingdoms together. They made Catholicism the official religion of their kingdoms and became known as the Catholic monarchs, a reason why many Jews left. And they spread Catholicism through the voyage of Magellan around the world 500 years ago, conquering with the sword and the cross.

Taxes were imposed by the nomadic movement of livestock from one grazing ground to another in the arid desert of the plains. You see, the rain in Spain does NOT stay mainly in the plain, that was only for “My Fair Lady’s” rhyming. The rain stays on the coastline, and the plains remain arid. As people began to settle down, the concept of the land title was introduced, as well as the family name, and it became the basis of taxation. Land ownership is a western concept. In native societies everywhere, the land is seen as a spiritual being.

Our land is more valuable than your money.  It will last forever.  It will not even perish by the flames of fire.  As long as the sun shines and the waters flow, this land will be here to give life to men and animals.  We cannot sell the lives of men and animals; therefore we cannot sell this land.  It was put here for us by the Great Spirit and we cannot sell it because it does not belong to us.  You can count your money and burn it within the nod of a buffalo’s head, but only the great Spirit can count the grains of sand and the blades of grass of these plains.  As a present to you, we will give you anything we have that you can take with you, but the land, never.

–Crowfoot, chief of the Blackfeet, circa 1885
https://shec.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1543#:~:text=Native%20Americans%20Describe%20Traditional%20Views%20of%20Land%20Ownership,-The%20Dawes%20Act&text=Some%20Native%20Americans%20did%20become,rob%20them%20of%20their%20lands.

All these gifts were given by God. Let us not covet. Let us not desire, but exercise temperance. Let us be stewards of our gifts according to the Parable of the Talents, Mt 25:14-30. When my two sons left home to be on their own, God multiplied them a hundredfold. Suddenly, over two hundred seminarians started following me on Facebook. Some counsel with me, some I support morally and financially. Some of them had left the seminary, a number of them had been ordained priests and this year a number of them were ordained transitional deacons on the way to priesthood. I cherish these gifts and they cherish my gifts to them as well. Accept the gift, for it is was specially designed for you by our creator.

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