Fr. Alan is out of town this weekend. This is a vintage homily from 2009.
I don’t know about you, but I am very relieved that the Christmas gift giving season has concluded. It’s easy enough to buy gifts for my young nieces and nephews, but it’s a real challenge to buy for the older members of the family. What can one buy for adults who already have everything they need, and can buy for themselves what they want? Finding an appropriate gift for an adult can be a challenge.
This Sunday’s Gospel speaks about the appropriateness of gifts. The three Magi mentioned in the Gospel were pagans. They were not familiar with the one, true God, but they were familiar with human nature. They wanted what all people want. They were looking for a savior; they were searching for a King who would be both powerful and benign.
They brought gifts appropriate for a King: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Their gifts were a reflection of what they sought and the kind of relationship that they wanted with this newborn King. This is the key to success in gift giving: to find a gift that is an appropriate expression of the relationship between the giver and the recipient.
Wedding rings are an example of an appropriate gift. At a marriage ceremony, the couple exchanges rings as an expression of their hope and prayer that their relationship will last a lifetime, and that they will always value one another.
Eucharist is also such an example. When we gather to celebrate Eucharist we offer bread and wine, the same simple elements that Jesus used to strengthen the faith of his disciples. Our gift is a reflection of the faith of the apostles. In offering bread and wine, we hope to share in the relationship that Jesus created with his first followers.
What kind of gifts can we give to God? It’s not as if we have anything that God needs. We can, however, offer gifts that God wants and deserves. The kind of gifts that we can offer legitimately to God are those that are appropriate to the relationship God wishes to have with us.
We can offer the gift of the time we spend in prayer, the sacrifice of obedience to God’s will, participation in the life of the parish, and material and spiritual support for those in need. These are appropriate gifts to God. These are reflections of the free gift of saving love that we have received in Christ.
We have an advantage over the Magi that makes our gifts more precious than gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We know the God to whom we offer our gifts, because we have already been the recipients of God’s good gifts of grace.