This week I present the following Reflection for your consideration.
Can you remember any of the gifts you received this past Christmas? I would imagine that most of us can call to mind one or another of the gifts we were given. Can you recall your reaction to the gifts you received? How did you respond? I suppose it depends on the gift—how significant, surprising or personal it might have been.
Throughout much of the Church’s life, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord has been deeply connected to the Feast of the Nativity, as the concluding celebration of the season of Christmas, the culmination of the Epiphany mystery.
Thus the connection with reflecting about Christmas gifts. The Christmas gift of Christ born for us is given its response by Mary and Joseph in the presentation of their firstborn son in the temple in obedience to the law.
And so Christmas is the feast of the gift given. Today’s feast is the feast of the gift acknowledged.
So how do we respond to the gift given at Christmas? It ultimately depends on the type and source of the gift. Some surprise us, some are so thoughtful, so beautiful, that they bring tears to our eyes and demand the time and effort to write a note expressing our gratitude.
The gift of Christmas, however, is different. It is the gift of God himself to us. God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, becomes human, shares our life-journeys, and ultimately gives his life fully for us on the cross. This is why Mary and Joseph today are the perfect example for us as “they took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to The Lord.” The gift of life given to us calls forth from us in gratitude a life dedicated to the giver. When everything has been given, gratitude, also, must be total.
In this Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, we come to the heart of Christian life. We are a people who have encountered God not simply as Creator and Lord but even more as a gift given to us in love. Just as God, Creator and Lord, deserves our obedience as gift given, our God deserves our lives presented and dedicated as gift in return.
Where do we give that gift of ourselves to God? We come week by week to this Church, to the Mass, to join our lives again and again, renewing our baptismal dedication to the Lord by being ever more joined to the life of Jesus given in gift at the Eucharist. And then, like Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, who “returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth”, we go into our homes, our world, and grow in the life of wisdom that is life lived as a gift to God and neighbor in loving charity.
Rev. Anthony Oelrich
Father Oelrich is pastor of Christ Church Newman Center, the Church of St. Augustine,
and rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He also serves as
Director of Continuing Education for clergy in the St. Cloud Diocese
and is the author of books and a frequent contributor to “Give Us This Day.”