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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Epiphany - The Little Drummer Boy and Us


The Magi, the great and wise men, are not named or counted in sacred scripture, but traditionally have been known under the three names of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.  The one thing scripture does tell us about them is their three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  They are interesting gifts that foreshadow Jesus' future, a future that was for the Magi written in the skies.  The signs of the stars, which were all given abundant symbolism in ancient times, spoke clearly at the time of Christ's birth: they declared that a new king was born for the people of Israel.  And so the Magi come with these gifts, and go first to Herod, who was very concerned about what these men were up to, and what they saw foretold in the future.  Undeterred by the disguised malice of Herod, the Magi follow the star to Bethlehem - they keep on searching even when the world is resistant.
We can indeed see in the Magi a bit of ourselves here at the start of 2016.  Following Thanksgiving, the month of December gives us lots of reasons to be vulnerable and think about our lives.  With Advent we are invited to reflect on what we are hoping for, even more powerful because 2016 was right around the corner.  In Christmas (with all its festivities, gatherings, and extra time to relax out of our routine) we are allowed to look at Jesus once again.  So by now, we are probably charged like the Magi to pursue something, to search more deeply, and to worship more sincerely.  We too are in a time & place that resists, in its own quiet way, our search for the Lord.  We too feel the pull to Bethlehem.  And we too have gifts to offer Christ Jesus.
What are those gifts?  Well probably not gold, frankincense, or myrrh (but if you happen to have lots of gold to give to Jesus, I'd be happy to help arrange that for you - see me after Mass please!)  Our gifts, like in the Christmas song "The Little Drummer Boy," are a little closer to home, down-to-earth, but are in fact more important.  Being creatures, the only things we can give back to God are the things he has given us, even if we cooperated in some way to develop them.  Our life is pure gift.  Our health is a gift.  Our family (& other relationships) is a gift.  Our talents were pure gift at first, and we fostered them (perhaps wasted them, too - at least I know that is true in my case at times).  Anything we have earned is based off those other things already mentioned.  Notice that didn't mention any spiritual gifts yet: God's love, his Grace, his Mercy, the holiness and infused virtues he shares with us to free us in ways we cannot free ourselves - all gift, never earned.  So when we bring gifts to God, we are laying at His feet what He has given us, and it is beautiful.  It's like a child asking mom or dad for $20 so that they can buy you a present to show you that they love you.  And there you see the beauty of the gift: it is love.
So for 2016, with all the New Year's Resolutions that we might have made, we need to ask ourselves: what gift am I giving Christ for this new year?  Will I pray more?  Volunteer more in the local community once a month?  Will I reconcile with that person I've been estranged from?  Any of these are beautiful signs of love for the God who loves you and has given you everything.  Pray for the rest of this Mass about your 2016 gift to the Lord, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to pursue that star.  Amen.

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