Give a few moments to letting the inner self find some quiet
As always it helps to close your eyes and to give a few moments to letting the inner self find some quiet. You are here to receive some new light on your life. Ask to be able to get in touch with your deeper desires. Lord Jesus, you said that you are the light of the world and our “way, truth and life”. Grant me to discover how to journey with you in this Advent time towards newness of light, towards you.
When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
God made each one of us different. Nobody else, in the whole of human history, has the same personality and situation that you have.
- The gospel story of the Magi has attracted many artists throughout the centuries, and the moment that they have usually focused on is the offering of the three gifts: gold, incense and myrrh. There have been various religious interpretations of the significance of these gifts. For instance the Venerable Bede suggested that gold meant kingship, incense divinity, and myrrh pointed forward to the Passion of Jesus. But Saint Bernard was much more down to earth in his comment: a poor family would need money; incense could disinfect the stable; and myrrh was a remedy for stomach upset in babies.
- Of course the custom of Christmas gifts has its origin here, and even though we rightly complain about this religious feast becoming so commercialised, we can hope that a spirit of generosity survives the consumerism. But there are deeper dimensions to be meditated here. Each of the Magi brought a different gift. What do you do with what life has given you? How do you live your freedom? What is the unique gift that you have received and that only you can bring to this world? God made each one of us different. Nobody else, in the whole of human history, has the same personality and situation that you have. Your call is yours and yours alone. And your call is to live your particular gift in your particular life-setting.
- Other moments of Scripture also invite us to pray about our gifts and to find the courage to live them. Think of the parable of the talents, which is an invitation to live our freedom creatively, embracing our opportunities to grow and to give. In this same parable we find someone who buries his one talent out of fear and who is strongly rebuked for wasting even the limited gift received. The invitation here is to wake up to our possibilities for giving, in spite of the inevitable limitations of each life.
- The Magi “opened their treasures”. Perhaps we can also recall the parable of Jesus that speaks of finding a hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44). Where the third person in the parable of the talents buried his or her talent out of fear, the one who discovers treasure hidden in a field, buries it again but in spirit of joy and anticipation – in order to own that field. Here we have a contrast between two attitudes to the challenge of our freedom: fear or gratitude; paralysing anxiety or energizing trust. You might like to pause and reflect prayerfully on your typical responses, recognising more the gifts you have than those you lack.
Talk to God
Any act of goodness, however small, is a source of transformation
- As we journey on in life, most of us become aware of decline and passivity. Some of the old gifts are less present, especially those that depend on energy and good health. But as we get older perhaps new gifts are born, such as a more relaxed enjoyment of people or a new kind of wisdom. In spite of, or even because of, our limitations, our gifts can find a new ease and simplicity. In fact the artists’ presentation of the Magi usually showed an old one with white hair, side by side with a young and energetic one and a third from another culture or race.
- Two other horizons can deepen and enlarge our reflections on living our gifts. As Saint Paul writes to the Ephesians: “You are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life” (Ephesians 2:10). In other words God is shaping us all the time for goodness and beauty. To reflect on your giftedness you could adapt most famous prayer of Saint Ignatius 'Take and Receive”: “You have given me all my gifts. To You I offer them all. Bless my living of them with your love and grace. That is enough for me”.
- A final dimension in praying our gifts is to remember the big scene of the world and its many struggles and needs. Any act of goodness, however small, is a source of transformation. When we pray “Thy Kingdom come”, we are asking that our efforts be part of God’s great action of saving the world from evil. If everyone were to live their God-given gifts, our planet would be a different place.