Our Theme for this Week: Our Offerings to God.
The Magi brought valuable gifts to the Lord, what can we aim to give to God this year?
For parts of the Christian world, the Solemnity of the Epiphany is the central celebration of the Christmas season. On the day commemorating the arrival of the Magi from the East, families exchange gifts. A few good Christmas specials celebrate this special day, of particular note, “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey.” Both tell the story of those who encounter the child Jesus but feel inadequate and do not know what they have to offer. The drummer boy offers his music and Nestor is able to protect Mary and child from the severity of the weather.
The Italians have a similar custom in the stories of the Befana. While she has been mistaken for a “witch” by some contemporary depictions, her story is rather tragic. She is a widow who has lost her child. With very little, Befana set up her house as an Inn, to which she has the fortune of hosting the Magi on their journey. The Magi, realizing her struggles, invite her to journey with them to see the newborn King. Sadly, she refuses, insisting that she has too much cleaning to do (hence, he depiction often with a broom – not as a witch). Here the story diverges. One telling of the story has her running after the Magi and catching up with them as they are bestowing gifts upon the child Jesus. Bringing with her all the possessions of her deceased child, she then lays down before Jesus this treasure. The child Jesus then blesses her, that for one night in the year, she might offer a gift to every child.
The other version of the story is more tragic, in that she regrets not accepting the invitation to join the Magi and then likewise tries to catch up with them. However, she does not arrive in time, and to this day she travels in search of the child Jesus and every time she encounters a child, she sees a bit of the child Jesus, and leaves a gift in the hopes that this is the child Jesus. While sad, both versions recognize her great generosity and what she has to offer.
In my short time at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, I’ve seen the gifts of the magi. I’ve seen parishioners and friends offering gifts of immense worth. On the weekend while providing a witness for Celebrate Recovery, one parishioner recognized an issue in the restrooms and gave of himself to clean up the situation. Or when a fellow parishioner and school parent, lent his abilities to offer fireworks at the end of a wonderful Fall Festival (which also had countless small acts of kindness that could have been highlighted). I’ve witnessed the Knights offer S’mores and hot chocolate at the Trunk-or-Treat, the Catholic Daughters can be spotted in the kitchen helping with the countless “magi” who serve at SALT, or the Legion of Mary who went into our neighborhoods to connect and invite others to OLPH. People can be spotted first thing in the morning (that’s rare for me to spot) or really late into the evening, some getting the Church meticulous clean and prepared, and others connecting with our parish youth.
To those who are laying before the Lord countless gifts, thank you! As you take the initiative and sacrifice in offering your gift to the Lord, know that Jesus offers us these words, “Take courage, it is I.”