Some of God’s Gifts Come in Strange Packages

My mother loved to put gifts in strange packages. One Christmas I eagerly tore off the wrapping of a fairly  heavy package (heavy packages usually meant something good!). To my disappointment I discovered that it was a box of Glad Trash Bags. Well, I guess I could use this but I was disappointed to say the least. She knew I was disappointed but smiled and said, “Open the box!”  I noticed a little of the package had already been slightly opened and yet I said, “Mom why open this now, I’ll use them later.” “Open it,” she said. So did and inside was a check for $100.  Over the years she often found strange packages to hide gifts, an old shoe box, a box of No. 2 Pencils, a package of underwear. “Gee thanks, Mom.”  “Open it!” And there were two $50 bills. So I learned that sometimes good gifts come in strange packages.

God is that way too. Some of God’s gifts come in strange packages. Hidden within some of the crosses we’ve been asked to carry are some precious treasures. Maybe we learned that we were stronger than we thought. Maybe our weakness taught us to trust and ask for help. Maybe the loss of a job opened new doors and launched new vistas. Maybe a troublesome person taught us patience and humility. Maybe an enemy helped us to see something in us that needed to change. Maybe injustice taught us to fight for what was right and that we were not truly alive until we found something for which we were willing to die. The cross is a paradox, a gift in a strange package.

I suppose we’ve all thought of the ideal circumstances we’d like to live in. Surely there would be reasonable affluence, comfort and beauty. It was no different as a priest. I wanted a beautiful Church, no debt, in a “nice” neighborhood etc. And yet my first assignment as pastor took me to the poorest neighborhood in the city with the highest crime rate. I remember the first day I went to look the place over. I drove onto the parking lot and there was a car on fire. I looked around and people were walking up and down the sidewalks as if nothing were amiss. I ran to the rectory door quite anxious. When the door opened I nervously pointed to the burning car and the staff person within said, “Oh, not again! OK come on in I guess I’ll go ahead and call the fire department.” In order to enter I had to pass through two sets of bars.  Ah but I loved my time at St. Thomas More Parish. It was a wonderful Parish, wonderful people, wonderful experiences. And I cried copious tears seven years later when I was asked to take another assignment (where I am also quite happy). But you never know as you open the strange packages God gives you what gifts are within. God can make a way out of no way and write straight with crooked lines. That burning car on a church parking lot was really for me like the burning bush that Moses saw on the mountain assuring him (me) of God’s blessings. It didn’t seem so at the time but years later I understood: Some of God’s greatest blessings come in strange packages.

This video prompted the reflection above. When I saw it I didn’t expect to be too impressed. It was just supposed to be a kid playing an accordion. I didn’t expect much, just the usual reedy sound and some missed notes. I had no idea what I was about to see. I NEVER knew an accordion could be made to sound like this nor did I expect to see such virtuosity. This young man has extraordinary talent. One of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the Presto from “Summer”  on accordion! yes, an accordion! Sometimes gifts come in strange packages!

9 Replies to “Some of God’s Gifts Come in Strange Packages”

  1. I’m reading some things in preparations for a prayer group discussion on the virtues. It seems to me that what you are really talking about here is the gift of faith- believing that God is all good, even if He allows things that we don’t perceive as good; all is ultimately for our good- if He allows it. It can be a hard idea to embrace.

    I believe one of the fruits if faith is gratitude. I talk about this a lot in groups with who I’m affiliated. When I hear another talk about being in the depths of their despair, I encourage them to really embrace what they are experiencing- don’t brush anything away. Everything that happens today will take us to where we are meant to be tomorrow, but only if we allow it. Everything that happens today will teach us something new, but only if we are open. When I face each “problem” I’m experiencing that way, I am grateful for everything. I can say that many of my gifts were oddly wrapped. I like that way of looking at it, and I will definitely share this analogy.

  2. Also in reading this, I was thinking about a discussion I had with my mother. She told me about how one of my family member is really struggling. The spouse is a partner in a large company, and over the years, earned a very large (7figure+) income. Now, given the financial times, he will need to reinvest his income in the company, and some things will need to change. They are struggling to decide whether to give up the beach house or the ski house? They live in an excellent school district, so do they give up the country club membership or the private schools? Does she give up tennis or he give up golf? Can she reduce the weekly maids from three times a week to one?

    Now, changing lifestyles is a difficult thing for anyone, so I don’t want to minimize the stress this is causing. However, I suggested that, maybe, God is permitting this brief “trial” in their lives so they will have the opportunity to learn what is most important. It can be easy to get lost in things.

    In the recent years, my family has struggled financially, and the gift in it has been understanding how little I really need. As we have financially stabilized, that understanding has helped me to be more charitable. When I need less, I can give more. It does take a conscience effort to look at it that way, and there are many times when I don’t understand what I’m meant to learn.

  3. greetings,

    i truly enjoyed this post. i have learned from my past to be a better reflection of what a Catholic is supposed to be. it all came from GOD’s gifts hidden in unexpected packages! from problems to Praises! thank you for putting this out for everyone to learn from. it will help others to better understand the different ways our GOD sometimes chooses to teach how to think of and do for others. nothing teaches better than experience! to you i say “GOD’s Greatest Blessings”. thank you.

  4. Good morning Msgr. Charles, I like your topic and i remembered God’s message to me way back 1995 that He will give me a Heavenly gift coming down from heaven in the amount of Six million dollars. But during my early years in a message also, God told me that I am not to save money because the treasure that He will give me has to be given to the poor and the needy. True enough, I tried saving money in the bank and every time that i see its figure..someone will come along to ask for help and i cannot do anything except to help even the one that is for my personal use. Since then, I did not save money in the bank because I have no money to save, but I can always withdraw money from heaven because God is so rich, he owns the kingdom of heaven and those who believe and follow and obey His will is never left unaided. Based on my experienced in my life..every time I have debts and I have no money to pay or even during times that I needed money to spend for a very important thing..I go to my Father in the Blessed Sacrament or even in any place where i am and call on Him in prayer…and Alas..he will talk to me in my dream and mention a name to go to, to ask for the much needed help…and there it is…answered prayer. Thanks to God my Father in Heaven and on Earth.
    One of my favorite song is entitled “persons are gift” that comes from God to me, wrapped differently sometimes loosely some tightly but wrappings are not the gift. Am a gift to others too. willingly given to you and You..we all are persons..we all are “gifts” so lets have exchange of gift. Amen to God, Bless to His people on earth who are gifts to others too. Praise be to God.

  5. Great reflection. I listened to a podcast of yours last week on marriage and this post seemed to communicate the style I heard in it. That style and most importantly the substance, your experience, is a real gift.

  6. Dear Msgr. Charles Pope;
    Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118:1

    Have you ever received a gift you didn’t deserve? The gift was given to you out of love. God is so great that He gives us His grace because of His love for us.

    Grace is God showing His love to you even though you don’t deserve it. You can’t earn God’s grace. You do not deserve to be saved from sin and to have eternal life. But God showed His grace by saving you from sin’s punishment when you trusted in Jesus as your Savior. God also shows His grace by giving you strength and guidance, and by taking care of you each day. God, by His grace, gives you strength to handle difficult problems in your life. Isn’t God’s grace wonderful?

    If you know Jesus as your Savior, you can be thankful that God saved you by His grace. The Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith . . .” (Ephesians 2:8). You can also depend on God each day for the grace you need to live for Him. Because God shows His grace to you, you should show His grace to others. Have you ever thanked God for His grace in your life?

    I am Pet. Pham Van Khoan will give God thanks in all. (

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