The Free Gift of God's Love

01-06-2019From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

Whenever we are looking to do something well we have to put our heart, soul, mind, and strength into it. At times it takes a lot of courage and energy. We really have to believe in what we are doing. Determination is defined as firmness of purpose or resoluteness. The more determined we are, the more we plumb he depths of our heart, soul, mind and strength. During Advent we reflected on the words of the prophets and came to see clearly God’s determination to send a Savior to us. Jesus is the one who fulfilled these prophecies and promises. God spoke through the prophets even though many times people ignored the message. God was not put off by human indifference or rejection. The determining factor was His all encompassing, unconditional love. God never stopped and will never stop loving us. During the Christmas Season we reflect on the wonder and awe of the birth of Jesus through the eyes of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds who heeded the message of the angel to go to Bethlehem to see the Christ Child as an infant, and the Magi who journeyed to see Him.

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, God’s revelation of Himself to all people. These three men were determined to follow the light of that unique star to the person it illumined the way to. Once they found the Christ Child, they were overcome with wonder and awe. They first prostrated themselves in homage. How humble these men of means and determination were. A child born in a stable and lying in a manger was the treasure they found at the end of their journey. After prostrating themselves in gratitude, they offered their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But as much as the Magi sought the Christ Child to worship and give thanks, Herod was just as determined to kill him. After being receptive to the message in a dream not to go back to Herod, they went home another way. That move fueled the anger of Herod to do what was an abomination, vicious crime, and horrible sin: he had all the male children two years old and younger in that area murdered: “When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet :“A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.” (Matthew 2:16-18)

One of the dramatically clear points here is that evil is just as determined as good. It all depends on what dwells in human hearts. Fear, indifference, apathy, and selfcenteredness are the tools of evil. Why would soldiers carry out such a heinous order? Disobeying orders could result in court marshal, imprisonment, or even execution. When evil has someone with authority and power in control, it wreaks pain, havoc, suffering and death.

God knows all we are capable of. He also knows how good our lives will be when we allow Him into our hearts and minds. So often it is not we who are searching for God, but God is searching for us. Like any parent He only wants what is good and life-giving for us. People who make our lives full, rich, and meaningful bring light, joy, and inspiration. Is Jesus one of those people for us? Even more, is Jesus THE ULTIMATE ONE who inspires, guides, encourages, and sustains us? In one of the reflections from the book “You Are The Beloved” by Henri Nouwen he writes: “The great temptation is to use our obvious failures and disappointments in our lives to convince ourselves that we are really not worth being loved. Because what do we have to show for ourselves? But for a person of faith the opposite is true. The many failures may open that place in us where we have nothing to brag about but everything to be loved for. It is becoming a child again, a child who is loved simply for being, simply for smiling, simply for reaching out. This is the way to spiritual maturity: to receive love as a pure, free gift.” Love can only be love if it is freely, joyfully, and humbly given. We all know the experience of innocence and wonder that young children bring to us. That is exactly what God sees in all of us. We are His children, loved by Him simply because are His children. He never ignores or gives us the silent treatment. As adults we give into the temptation to ignore Him and give Him the silent treatment. Take a few moments this week to think about the determination of God to lead the Magi to Himself in the Child Jesus and his determination to let us know how much He is present to us and how deeply we are present in His heart. That will lead us closer and closer to the joy, humility, and gratitude of the Magi who were overwhelmed with wonder and awe. That will help our sincerity in prayer and the desire to pray. It will help open our minds to enter ever more deeply into the words proclaimed at Mass and the prayers offered. It will lead us to trust ever more deeply in the words we hear in the Sacrament of Penance: I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

How good it is when our quest for God’s is matched by His quest for us. May we all know the wonder, joy, gratitude, and humility of the Magi. I conclude with this passage from Psalm 63 which captures the journey of the Magi and always inspires me: O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise. So I will bless you all my life, in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul shall be filled as with a banquet, my mouth shall praise you with joy. On my bed I remember you. On you I muse through the night for you have been my help; in the shadow of your wings I rejoice. My soul clings to you; your right hand holds me fast.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

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