Isaiah 60:5-6 …the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.
One of the enduring Christmas traditions is the exchange of gifts. This lovely tradition, when celebrated rightly, brings joy—often more joy to the giver even than the receiver. I think the closer we get to Christ, the more pleasure we derive from giving. This is a sign that we are becoming more like him. God’s generosity knows no limits. At times, we are permitted to participate in his generosity and it fills us with holy joy.
God’s gifts are manifold, simple, and free. So much so that we often take them for granted. Once, right before Christmas Eve Mass, I thought to ask the Lord for a gift I was very much in need of—the gift of self-control. As I asked the Lord for this gift after Communion on that holy night, an infused knowledge came to me, as if God were saying, “I gave you that gift years ago…you just haven’t opened it yet.” It was one of those moments when the scales fall from your eyes and the truth can no longer be denied. Of course, I received that gift years ago—on the day of my confirmation. It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Have I really left it unopened for over 40 years? Shame on me!
That experience led me to wonder what other gifts my loving Father had given me that I had not yet opened. This is worth pondering. It is the height of ingratitude to ask for and expect gifts from God, and then to pick and choose the ones we want to open. Surely if God has given us all these gifts, he wishes them to be used in his service. Mea culpa! If the Church is in crisis, I need only look in the mirror of truth to see why.
St. Paul is very clear about the importance of using our spiritual gifts to build up the Body of Christ:
“And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that…living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love.” [Ephesians 4:11-16]
And no one is excluded. Everyone is given gifts. If we are not sure which gifts we have been given, we need to pray for the knowledge and perhaps ask God that others will reveal to us our gifts. Sometimes we don’t see them for ourselves, but others notice them.
“To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.” [1 Corinthians 12:7-11]
We need to ask for more gifts for the glory of God. St. Faustina says that if a soul rejects a gift given at Communion, it immediately goes to another soul. After I read that, I started praying after Communion: “Lord I accept every gift and grace it pleases you to give me, especially the gift of living in the Divine Will, and all gifts being rejected by others, for your glory, and for your kingdom to come. But more than that, I ask that all souls would accept the gifts you offer, most especially the gift of living in the Divine Will.” It is important to note that our desire for God’s gifts cannot be for our personal gain or glory. Anyway, God’s gifts are often something we would not want, like the gift of suffering for souls. St. Paul goes on to say that we should “Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.” [1 Corinthians 12:31] God needs souls willing to open and use his gifts, not for our glory, but for his, in order that his kingdom may come.
The wise men from the East brought gifts to our Lord. The holy family made use of them in God’s timing. We too must pray and discern the gifts we have been given and how God wants us to use them in his service. St. Catherine of Siena once said: “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!” God desires that souls use his gifts. Then let us ask for and use them, that the Kingdom of the Divine Will may reign upon the Earth.
I once read on a blog where the blogger encouraged readers to “name” our year. I think I will name my year, the “Year of opening God’s gifts”. It is probably a good idea then to write down the gifts I open and use; it will help me with gratitude and keep me honest about my response to the gifts, especially if they are gifts I would not necessarily ask for.
Lord, may your Kingdom come and come quickly!