Adult Faith Formation Column for the Sunday Bulletin of St. Michael Parish, Livermore, California

This weekly column is a short meditation on the Bible readings of the Sunday Mass. The meditations are direct quotations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal encyclicals, writings of the Saints, and similar orthodox sources.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday 8 January 2012, The Epiphany of the Lord

What Are We To Bring You?

    Our picture of Christmas includes yet another element,
namely, the giving of gifts.  The Christmas plays our children stage
in school show in great detail how the shepherds ponder what
gifts they can offer the newborn king -- and the ideas they come up
with are drawn directly from the daily lives of people in our own
society today.

    A liturgical hymn of the Eastern Church explores the same
theme but gives it greater depth:  "What can we offer you, O Christ,
for having been born for us on earth as a Man?  Each creature, the
work of your hands, offers you a sign of gratitude:  the angels, their
hymn; the heavens, the star; the Magi, their gifts; the shepherds,
their admiration; the earth, the cave; the desert, the manger; and
all mankind, we offer you a virgin mother."

    Mary is the gift of mankind to Christ.  And this in turn means
that the Lord does not want some thing from man, but man himself.
God does not want a certain percentage of us.  He wants our heart;
indeed, he wants our whole being.  He wants our faith and the life
that is based on faith.  And from this life, he wants those gifts of 
which he will speak at the Last Judgment:  food and clothing for the poor,
compassion and mutual love, a word that gives consolation, and a
presence that brings comfort to the persecuted, the imprisoned,
the abandoned, and the lost.

    What can we offer you, O Christ?  We certainly offer him too
little if all we do is to exchange costly presents with one another,
gifts that are not the expression of our own selves and of a gratitude
that otherwise remains silent.  Let us try to offer him our faith and 
our own selves, even if only in the form of the prayer: "I believe, Lord,
help my unbelief!"  And on this day, let us not forget the many in whom
he suffers on earth.

                    -- Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger)
                        The Blessing of Christmas

        Lord, every nation on earth will adore You!
                            -- Psalm 72

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