Epiphany Of The Lord
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: January 2, 2022
What gift are we going to bring?
How many times have you asked this question at your own house?
Maybe it is a birthday, a wedding, a baptism, Christmas, or an anniversary; we all ask what would be an appropriate gift?
You think about what the person likes, what are their interests, or did they mention something that you remember months later that will be perfect.
All of us I think are happy when we bring a gift that is appreciated by the people who receive it.
When looking at the readings today, I wondered, do you think the three wise men had these same thoughts in what gifts they would bring?
The three “Magi” are believed to have been Zoroastrian priests from Persia that were very intellectual, and at that time, they had been anticipating a great leader to be born in the Middle East.
So, when they saw the star, they believed this to be a sign, and they struck out on the long and dangerous journey.
They of course had to figure out the appropriate gift to bring and as we know, they brought 3 gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
All of these are significant, well thought out gifts.
Gold represented wealth and power, and as a potential leader or king this would be appropriate. I think it also would have been a great practical gift for the family as they would need money in their flight to Egypt, to set up a new life, and then come back again to Israel.
The next was frankincense which was a type of incense and signified Jesus’ priesthood, but may also practically could be given to the temple priests as an offering during religious services.
And finally, is myrrh, which was a perfume used for embalming and at death. It was important for the family to know that Christ would suffer and die (as Simeon told Mary), and practically it is probably the perfume brought by the women to the tomb after Jesus’ death that they would have used in his linen wrappings.
These are all well thought out gifts, brought by non-Jewish or Gentile visitors to the child.
It is essential to realize that this moment of gift giving by the magi also signifies what is spoken of in Psalm 72 that we have sung “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you!”
We also see the prophet Isaiah in the first reading “the wealth of nations shall be brought to you” showing that Christ is for all peoples, all lands, every part of the world.
When I think about gifts from all nations that are found in the Roman Catholic Church, I think of travels that my family and I have been privileged to have around the world and the spiritual gifts and joys that I have seen.
In El Salvador, we got to see the place where St. Oscar Romero was assassinated while celebrating mass and in talking with Father Patras, we get to learn about the persecuted church in the world.
In Zimbabwe, we got to learn about the sacrifice and joy of the poor who would walk 10km at 5am to get to mass and have 1000 people celebrate in a church build for 500 with singing, dancing, and joy that was amazing to experience in what I have to say was the gift of the best mass I have ever attended.
In rural India, we heard the acapella voices of 500 young girls at a Catholic missionary school for the “untouchable” children of the area, which brought the gift of praise, worship and simplicity to the space.
In Europe we see the beauty and strength of the great Gothic churches that symbolize the gift of the eternalness of the church.
All these experiences show gifts that groups of people, cultures, and nations bring to our Catholic faith, and we will try and incorporate these gifts into the new parish that we are building in many ways, not just in the building, but in the ministries that will come forward.
But the readings also ask us to ponder the question, “if we are a part of this great outpouring of the love of God, what gifts do we bring”?
What do we bring to the table that shows how much we love God and how we endeavor to spread His message in our lives each day?
As St. Paul tells the Ephesians back then, and he tells us today (all of us being Gentiles) – we are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Remember, he goes on to tell the Ephesians in the same letter that “His gifts to the church were varied and He Himself appointed some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to fully equip and perfect the saints for works of service, to build up the body of Christ.
Therefore, we each have a gift to bring to the party! Each of us has been given a gift that we can bring as individuals like the Persian priests.
What do each of us bring to Christ to help further his kingdom in the world? What do we bring to our parish as we continue to see how we can help the community of Hamilton through our outpouring of love?
There are at least 15-20 spiritual gifts that we may bring forward no matter if we are young, old, married, single, rich, poor, or any combination.
Gifts like hospitality to welcome people into our church and make them feel wanted when they arrive.
Gifts like unshakeable faith that manifests itself in prayer, many times by those who are home bound or elderly, who pray for God’s “will to be done” and helping us understand and accept it.
Gifts like helping, whether it is with SSVP or the CWL or Knights of Columbus; using this desire to help another and give a “lift” so to speak to others.
Or maybe even the gift of teaching to help with Children’s ministry or maybe a Bible study, etc.
As we see the magi bring gifts to the Jesus to help him and his family in their mission to spread the Good News, I ask that each of us think about our parish and then ask ourselves this week “What gift are we going to bring?”