Katherine Smith, Senior Anchor Intern – Sacramental Prep
A few weeks ago I attended the Catholic young adult conference SEEK with 17,000 other people. During the conference, the Church celebrated the feast of the Epiphany, the time to—like the three kings—pay homage to the newborn King. Each year around the Epiphany I find myself pondering the gifts of the three kings. In some ways I am awed by the quality and richness of these three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. I imagine the sincerity with which the kings lay the gold, frankincense and myrrh at the foot of the manger and I know that God receives their homage. Yet, in other ways, those gifts seem so insignificant. No amount of gold, frankincense and myrrh, despite quality or cost, could possibly give fitting homage to the King of Kings.
When I think about the insignificance of even the costly gifts of the kings, I realize that I will never have a gift worthy of my King. Consoling myself, though, I breathe a sigh of relief, falling back on the knowledge that God has things under control. My lack of a gift doesn’t change the fact that He’s God, I tell myself. Yet, this Epiphany, I cannot shake the feeling that Jesus wants me to offer him my own personal gifts. The three kings brought gold, frankincense and myrrh, but now Jesus asks me for a different kind of gift: He desires joy, obedience, sacrifice, perseverance, trust, praise, patience, charity, and really all of the virtues. As I think about which gifts Jesus wants me to offer Him specifically, I deflate inside, knowing that what Jesus desires from me personally is not packaged up nicely like a treasure box of gold or a gilded canister of frankincense. Not at all. My trust, my praise, and my perseverance are quite fleeting and sometimes nonexistent. So, why would God continue to ask for them anyway? How could my attempts at perseverance be the gold that He accepts as homage? Well, as SEEK reminded me, God doesn’t understand gifts in the same way that I do. He understands gifts through Himself: He understands the power of sharing.
For the first few days of SEEK I found myself listening to talks, going to mass, and experiencing so many things that continually reminded me of the beautiful truths of God’s relationship to me and to every person. Though surrounded by 17,000 other people, listening to the same talks and attending the same masses, instead of rejoicing in God’s presence among us, I kept what I was hearing and experiencing to myself. Conversations about the talks elicited many “good,” “great,” and “funny” responses or objective summaries, but I didn’t want to share anything else—anything personal, vulnerable or spirit-filled. I acted as if I could keep God to myself, but God cannot be contained. Trying to isolate myself with Him really meant isolating myself from Him.
Purely out of practicality but quite ironically given my current state, I decided to attend a talk about praying with others. As the priest giving the talk began to explain the power of the Holy Spirit when two or more are gathered in Christ’s name (Matthew 18:20), my heart also began to come alive. I suddenly knew that the active love of the Holy Spirit that the priest invited us to recognize and call upon specifically in community is the true reality of God. Rather than my closed-fisted approach, it became utterly clear that God manifests Himself through the out-pouring love of the Holy Spirit which is always a shared and fruitful love. As I left the talk and gathered with a few other students from our group, I now couldn’t help but excitedly share what I had learned. As I shared, I could feel the presence of God enlarging my heart and my ability to receive God and perceive Him in others. We ended that small gathering by praying together over one of the girls and invoking the Holy Spirit to pour out His love upon her. Simply our union in doing so was a witness to the reality of the Love that filled the space.
Beginning this new semester and new year after SEEK, I am finally beginning to understand what it means to lay a gift at the manger each day. Not in my economy of gift, but rather God’s economy, sharing myself, my gifts, or maybe simply my desire for God becomes not merely “enough,” but the basis for an active relationship with the Lord. By themselves, the little gifts that I seek to lay before the Lord will be puny and insignificant. When shared, however, they acquire the utmost value and purpose for Christ. For Christ does not work in our perfection, but in our openness to His presence being manifested in and through us and in and through others. Gifts like trust, praise, and patience cannot even exist on their own. They rely on a relationship with God for existence and will become treasured gifts not because I will have given them to God, but more truly because I will have received them from Him. Our gifts or virtues, in the end, will not be about us, but rather the manifestation of our receptivity of the greatest treasure: the King Himself.
As we seek to share ourselves, our gifts, and our time this semester, let us remember that God manifests Himself in our sharing. This is why it is sharing and not simply giving. What we give does not leave us. It is realized and then magnified, becoming a part of us because it is God Himself entering in. It is the merciful Father gazing at us just as He gazes at the person we have just acted mercifully towards; it is Jesus waiting patiently for us just as He comforts the person that we have chosen to truly listen to; it is the Holy Spirit enlivening our hearts with joy just as He does to the person that we have just smiled at. Christ is never lost when we give Him to others, but always multiplied. We can thank Him that our little gifts, when shared, become great means not only of letting His radiance touch the lives of others. In doing so, we allow Christ to be present and magnified in our own hearts.
Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus! Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as You shine, so to shine as to be a light to others; the light, O Jesus, will be all from You; none of it will be mine: it will be You shining on others through me. Let me thus praise You in the way You love best: by shining on those around me. Let me preach You without preaching, not by words, but by my example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.