Chosen Gift

January 8, 2023 – The Epiphany of the Lord

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/010823.cfm)

A woman once asked me to bless her new Rosary beads she got from her recent pilgrimage in the Holy Land. So, after blessing, I said: “This must be very precious and would be a good companion with your prayer life.” She replied, “Yes, father, this is very dear to me. But, no, I will not to bring it with me. This might be misplaced or lost. So, I will just put this Rosary on my altar at home, along with my other valuable rosaries. It would be much safer if I keep it there. Anyway, I rarely use and pray the rosary.”

Christmas has just ended. We are starting a New Year. This would be the time for us to see again the gifts we received during the Christmas season, and to sort out those gifts we happily received, from the gifts that are of no great value to us. Usually in doing this, we give importance to the gifts that are pleasing and less demanding. Then, we put aside gifts, which are not-so-urgent, time consuming and demanding, but still important. It is like receiving a rosary. We know that praying the rosary is important to our Christian faith and life. But because having a rosary bead demands us to set a time to pray the Holy Rosary. Sometimes it would be easy to use the beads, as decoration on our altar rather than as a means for prayer – an aid to encounter the Lord. Yes, using the beads as altar decoration is a valid expression of faith but surely, it lessens the very purpose of Rosary beads, which is to lead us into prayer.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Epiphany. This is our celebration of our remembrance of God’s loving act of reaching out to us (God making himself known to us) and our acceptance of Jesus, as God’s self-revelation. We, Christians believe that God has given us His only Son, Jesus Christ, as His first gift to us for our salvation. By sharing us His Son Jesus, we become related to God our Father, and we become His adopted sons and daughters, and sharers of His divine life. Indeed, Jesus is God’s greatest gift to us.

And like rosary beads, Jesus, as God’s gift, is given to us with a purpose, that is to bring us closer to God. Accepting Jesus is not only accepting him as a valuable gift which we can put aside and decorate, but moreso letting ourselves be influenced by the grace Jesus can offer and we choosing to become His responsible witnesses. To accept Jesus, as God’s gift to us, is also to choose to accept with total commitment the responsibility of continuing His mission – which is to present and bring all people closer to the Father.

Like the three wise men in our Gospel, we are called to wholeheartedly accept Jesus, and to choose to become responsible witnesses of God’s love. This would mean to let our lives be changed and renewed by the presence of Jesus, and to share and make Jesus and His mission known to the whole humanity.

Here in our gospel today, we are reminded us of what happened when the three wise men found the child Jesus lying in the manger in Bethlehem. Guided by the star, in great joy, they saw the child Jesus and they did him homage. Their encounter of Jesus and the Holy Family in Bethlehem brought the three wise men great joy for they have finally found what they are searching for. With this, they offered their gifts in homage and thanksgiving to God’s greatest gift to all.

We may learn two things from their experience. First, like Herod, those who are comfortable & established – (those who have enough & even more than) in life, fail to recognize the value but just accept the gift of Jesus as decoration & interruption. But like the three wise mens, the searchers, travellers, & strangers of life (those who have less & lacking enough) appreciate & give great value to the blessings & responsibilities the gift of Christ being offered us. In other words, we choose to receive God’s gift to us from our needs & not just from our wants. Those who are in need willingly choose to accept the gift-given, while those who have enough & plenty undervalue & reject God’ gift for us.

And this is also to remind us, that after they have witnessed the Son of God, the wise men departed for their country by another way. This is not because they were afraid of Herod, but because of their encounter with Jesus has also changed their lives. Because of their experience with the baby Jesus, their lives were never the same again. They did not follow the usual path, but they now tread a different way, perspective, and attitude to life. Like our experience with a newly born baby, after they have recognized God in the child Jesus, the lives of the three  wise men were never the same again. The child Jesus brought them great joy as well as great changes in their way of life.

We all believe that the birth of Jesus has brought great joy as well as great changes in our lives because when Jesus became part of our lives, life has never and will never be the same again. Jesus, God’s gift to us, is not like the gifts we receive this Christmas, like shirt or pants that we will sometimes use, or books that we may never read at all, or good food we will eat, or a figurine or rosary beads we will just decorate. God giving us the gift of His son is like having a new baby, a new member in your family. Inasmuch as it brings great joy in our family, it also entails a lot of responsibilities and a lot of changes, making our lives different and never the same again. In the same way, the moment we recognize and choose to accept the Lord, life will & should never be the same again.

As we receive and welcome Jesus into our lives now, may we choose to be responsible beneficiaries of God’s gift of revelation as well as sharers and witnesses of God’s offer of salvation to the whole world.

Amen.

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