At Mass this Sunday, the Epiphany was reenacted. Three men from our parish community served as the three wise men; their children accompanying them, serving as pages. They laid their three gifts before the statue of the Christ child: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Those are unusual gifts for a baby. I’m sure many of you have heard the joke about how if the three wise men had been women they would have brought much more practical gifts. Yet, the gifts those wise men brought from afar had a great deal of symbolic meaning. All three were highly valuable. They were gifts fit for a king – these men who had traveled so far brought the best that they had to offer.
Gold needs little explanation. Then, as now, it was a valuable metal. Frankincense is a fragrant gum resin used in incense and in embalming. It was often used in religious services as an offering to God. Myrrh, another gum resin, was an ingredient in anointing oil. It also served as a perfume, a burial spice, and as a medicine. Myrrh was often used as a local anesthetic, including in postnatal care.
What gifts would you bring the Christ child? If you knew that you were going to meet the King and Savior of the world today, what would you offer him? It’s something to think about, isn’t it? The truth is, we have that opportunity every single day.
We can offer the Christ child material gifts. Certainly, He no longer needs that gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but as the source of all good things in our life, including money, we can give some of it back as an offering to Him. We can donate both to the Church and our neighbor.
We can also offer Jesus spiritual gifts. He has given us all that we are. He wants all our love in return. We are instructed to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and our neighbor as ourselves. What keeps us from doing that? What do we hold most valuable in our lives? Are there parts of ourselves that we hold back from God? Attachments we simply can’t let go of? Things we aren’t willing to give up, even when God asks us to do so?
It’s a lifelong process, and the vast majority of us will never achieve perfection, but each time we make a choice to deny ourselves and love God and our neighbor, we are taking a step in the right direction and we are offering ourselves. Every time we choose to trust Jesus even when it seems impossible to do so, we lay a gift at his feet. Each time we use the gifts (talents) He has given us to make the world a better place, we give Him a present.
Like the wise men of old, we have the opportunity every day to lay our gifts before the Lord. What will you give Him today?