There are those wonderful times when we feel like we are in the right place at the right time. However through the gifts we have and the gift we are we can make any place the right place at the right time. It all depends on our inner attitude. Two weeks ago we celebrated the feast of Christ the King and the Gospel reading was Luke 23:35-43 where we had the account of Jesus dying on the cross between two thieves. One thief looked for the miracle of being taken down from cross so he could continue with his life in this world while the other thief recognized that he was in the right place as he sought Jesus’ mercy with his last breaths on the cross: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” As much as it was totally unjust and evil that Jesus should hang on a cross and die, He rose above the unjust and evil and assured the “good thief.” - “This day you will be with me in paradise.” - This scene shows us that as hard as it is we can almost always make the place where we are the right place through our goodness, love, humility, and mercy. When that happens we are a gift to those whose lives we touch.
As we are on our journey to celebrate Christmas, gifts are very much on our mind. Children look for the gifts they ask for while parents find joy in giving these gifts as well as others. But the real gift comes from recognizing what a gift we are to others and what a gift they are to us. In the Gospel for today’s Mass (Matthew 3:1-12) we see: “At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.” They were looking for far more, they were looking for what the “good thief” found - the unconditional love of God. We are a gift to God not because He forgives our sins but because His mercy turns our minds and hearts to His unconditional love. He wants us to know He will always love us. Trust in the gift of Himself to us and His love enables us to see no matter where we are or what we are doing - through, with, and in Him we are in the right place with our thoughts, words, and actions.
God showers us with the gift of Himself so powerfully through the Sacraments. We become an intimate part of His life and the Body of Christ in the world, through Baptism. The waters of Baptism do far more than wash away sin, they fill us with the love only God can give us. Every week, and every day if we are able, we are invited to our family meal, the Mass, where we are fed by Jesus Himself in Holy. Communion. This Sacrament is the gift of God Himself that enables us to be what He is to us and to one another. The Sacrament of Penance assures us of God’s mercy and inspires and enables us to not only rise above and beyond sin, but to love with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. When we are anointed with the Holy Oil of Sacred Chrism, the Holy Spirit enters our minds and hearts with His sevenfold gifts. Fully part of the Church, we rejoice in who we are as God’s gift to Himself and become a gift to Him and one another. When we are ill and suffering we are strengthened and sustained through the healing power of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Through the Sacrament of Marriage husband and wife become signs and sources of God’s love for one another and have the creative power of God Himself to bring new life into the world. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders Jesus entrusts those ordained to feed, heal, teach, encourage, and walk with His people.
Christmas is a great time to recognize the gift we are, the gift of those who are part of our lives, and the gift God is to us. We do many things to get ready for Christmas, but none more important than recognizing that old saying: “Jesus is the reason for the season!” I offer this passage from 1John 4:14-20:
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God, we have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
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