06 January 2018

A Gift for Jesus

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
I am not the greatest gift giver.  I try; I really do.  I try to think what my parents, sisters, nieces, and friends would like to get, especially for Christmas.  But I never seem to have the knack of getting something that they really want, unless, of course, I’ve already asked them what they want.  I don’t beat myself up too much for needing to ask what my nieces want; I don’t see them too often, and I’m not quite in touch with what 2 and 5 year girls like.  
On Christmas, we celebrated the greatest gift ever: Jesus Christ, God-made-man, God-with-us.  At Christmas we usually give gifts, and it’s fitting that we try to imitate God’s generosity, though His generosity can never be outdone.  God gave us the possibility of eternal salvation when heaven and earth were joined in Jesus, the Word made flesh.  And throughout the Christmas season we have probably treasured our gifts, maybe used them, and maybe we think of the person who gave us those gifts when we do use them.
Today, as we celebrate the Epiphany, we celebrate God manifesting Himself (Epiphany means to show forth or manifest) to all the world, represented by the magi.  At Christmas God revealed Himself to the Chosen People, to Israel, represented by Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.  Now at the Epiphany, God reveals Himself to those were not part of God’s people, the pagans, the Gentiles, the non-Jews.  God allowed the natural world (the star) to guide those who followed the movement of the stars, to lead them to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  And there they laid down their gifts at the feet of the newborn King.  Each gift has a meaning.
And that’s part of the beauty of the many verses of the hymn “We Three Kings”: the gifts are explained.  Gold is for a king (“Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain / Gold we bring to crown Him again;”); frankincense is for a God (“Frankincense to offer have I; / Incense owns a Deity nigh;”); myrrh is for burial (“Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume / Breathes a life of gathering gloom;”).  Even though the magi were not part of the Chosen People, and did not have the revelation of God’s will through the Old Testament, they brought gifts for a King who was God, but who was also going to die.  They recognized Jesus as a King, as God, and as born to die, even when others later on would struggle with one or another of those identities.
But the gifts that we give Jesus tend to reveal more about ourselves than it does about Jesus.  We know who Jesus is.  We know that He was born a king, that He is truly God, and that He was born to die so that we can live.  But in the gifts that we give Jesus, we show Him what we really think about Him, and how much importance we give Him.
Time is definitely a gift that we can give Jesus, and to the extent that we give it to Him, it shows the extent to which we value His friendship.  Some have a habit of walking out after receiving Holy Communion.  While there can be legitimate reasons for this, for most people, waiting an extra 5 or 10 minutes won’t endanger anyone’s life or job.  And yet how many people leave early?  Or how many families, including sometime our Catholic school families, don’t even bother coming?  Yes, giving up an hour does mean that we are giving up doing something else that we might want to do.  But when we choose not to go to Mass (obviously not counting when we are sick, or more than 30 minutes away from a church, or when the weather makes it dangerous to drive), we withhold the gift of our time and attention from Jesus, and tell him that He is not as important as our plans and our will.
Love is also a gift that we can give Jesus.  I think sometimes we feel like an act of love of Jesus has to be profound and wordy.  But we can say it the same way we say it to others: “I love you, Jesus.”  What a beautiful prayer that is!  How many times have you said “I love you” to Jesus?  If you said it as infrequently to your spouse as you do to Jesus, would you still be married?  Even teenagers will throw that word around…a lot!  The girlfriend or boyfriend is loved, even if they have only been dating for a week.  But do we say it to Jesus?  
In a weird way, sin is also a gift that we can give Jesus.  No, this doesn’t mean that Jesus wants you to sin.  But if we do sin, He wants to take that from us, because He wants to take our death that comes from sin, and to give us life that comes from Him.  And the ordinary way of giving Jesus our sins is by going to confession.  Maybe it’s just a few small sins.  Maybe it’s a few big sins.  In either case, Jesus doesn’t want us to carry that burden.  And the ordinary way that He takes away that burden is by going to confession.  That’s the way Jesus established in the Scriptures; that’s the way a Catholic has his or her sins forgiven.  And by giving Jesus even our failings, we show Him that we want Him to have everything from us.  It’s not like Jesus doesn’t know the bad stuff we do, but we can sometimes pretend like all He needs to know about is the good stuff.  We cannot hide from God; we cannot pretend that we have not failed Him, that we have not fallen short of the glory of God.  Give even your sins to Jesus and let Him heal you.  He wants to.  He doesn’t just want your good; He also wants the bad and the ugly.  We shouldn’t try to sin, but when we do sin, give it to Jesus.

Because at the end of the day, Jesus wants all of us.  The gift He wants is of a heart given to Him.  That doesn’t mean we have to become a monk or a nun.  In every form of life, we can give Jesus our all.  And that is the perfect gift for Jesus, the gift that will give joy to His heart, the gift that He’s been waiting to receive.