The Gift of God Himself

01-01-2023From the Pastor's DeskMonsignor Ellsworth R. Walden

Happy New Year! As we begin another year of life in this world it is good to look at where we are in our lives, how we got here, and where we are going. As we begin the New Year as Catholics, we continue in the Christmas season with our prayers and readings at Mass. Christmas is about the GIFT we have all received, the GIFT of God Himself in the person of Jesus. Jesus came to fulfill God’s promise to send a Savior because we are a gift to Him. As much as we place our confidence and faith in Him, the foundation of our faith is gratitude. The Christmas season is our time offer prayers of thanks for the gift God is to us. He came in Jesus to save us from confusion, fear, ignorance, and sin, and, even more, to fill us with joy, hope, peace, truth, and love.

“I believe, help my unbelief.” Those words from Mark 9:24 are from a father seeking Jesus to cure his son. Many times they are our words. It is not that we do not believe but that we don’t know everything good about God or even about ourselves. Faith is believing and trusting even when we do not know everything about God or each other. It is our trust in God and our trust in each other that not only sustains us but also fills us with hope, joy, and purpose. On Monday of the last week of Advent, the first reading was from Judges 13:2-7, 24-25 where through an angel God promised the wife of Manoah, who was childless, that she would have a son, Samson. The reading concludes with these words: “The boy grew up and the Lord blessed him; the Spirit of he Lord stirred him.” As we begin 2023 it is good it see where the Spirit of the Lord has and is stirring us to see God’s goodness and blessings in our lives. God’s love and mercy are ever present. Without mercy and love there is no hope. Through the vision of faith we do far more than just survive and get along. Trusting in God leads us to be fully alive, opens our minds and hearts to how powerful, creative, and life giving we can be and the joy of being so. We do not calculate what we will get from our love and mercy but experience the hope and joy of God Himself, living in the very image in which we have been created.

Christmas is about the gift God is to us and the gift we are to Him. Jesus did not come to put us in our place but to free us from all that keeps us from being fully alive. Being fully alive does not mean we are in control of everything and everyone who affects our lives. Being fully alive only happens when we are grateful for God’s love and mercy and are willing to be signs and sources of His unconditional love and ever present and renewing mercy. It means being filled with the Spirit of God, recognizing Jesus is walking with us. Being fully alive happens when we recognize the blessings we have in one another, ourselves, and God Himself.

It is not only that we pray the words of the “Good Thief” on the cross, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42) but that we recognize He loves me so much that He trusts us to be an integral, joyful, life-giving part of His Kingdom, His presence in our world, the world He created in the first place. Our temptation is to use our world and others for our own security and comfort. The light goes on when we see and experience the joy of loving ourselves and others as Jesus loves us. We are always in control when our main focus is to follow this simple command of Jesus every day of our lives: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) 

I offer Psalm 23 for your prayerful reflection.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord's own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be.

Psalm Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Shepherd of your Church, you give us new birth in the waters of Baptism; you anoint us with oil, and call us to salvation at your table. Dispel the terrors of death and the darkness of error. Lead your people along safe paths, that they may rest securely in you and live for ever in your Father's house.