Over that last few weeks we have had the Feast of the Holy Family, the Solemnity of Mary the Holy Mother of God, the Feast of Epiphany, and today the Feast of the Baptism of The Lord, and also last Sunday I was able to celebrate a baptism for a couple I married a few years ago. It wasn’t only the baptism with all the people that came for it that made me think of these feasts over this Christmas season, but also the gathering after and the family. There were many family members and relatives, numerous young cousins of the newly baptized running around (four of the bridesmaids were pregnant at their wedding), and they have a regular Sunday family meal together where the young cousins get to know one another. All of this as well as family gatherings I was able to be at over Christmas remind me how important family is in our lives and in our faith, in formingwho we are.
As it is Tuesday when I am writing this we also have Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions after Mass every Tuesday and I was reminded of how much I like the one prayer they have for families so I thought this might be a good time to share it with those who aren’t there on Tuesdays.
Mother of Perpetual Help, bless our families with your tender,
May the sacrament of Marriage bring husbands and wives ever
closer together that they may always be faithful, and love each
other as Christ loves us.
Help all mothers and fathers love and cherish the children God
has entrusted to them. May they always be models of a truly
Help all children, that they may love and respect their parents.
Inspire all people to value Christian marriage and family life.
Give us a sense of responsibility that we may do our part in making our homes havens of love and peace.
Mary our model, help every family grow daily in genuine love for
God and neighbor so that justice and peace may flourish everywhere in the human family.
As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany and see the gifts that the magi give to Jesus we might wonder what they mean and what they tell us about gifts (as we have probably given and received a few lately).
The three gifts are gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. There are a few different interpretations as to what they mean but the following are common ones. Gold is a gift for a king. It has always been recognized as a precious and valuable metal and thus is associated with not only kings but also some consider it as also a sign of Christ’s divinity that the Magi recognized. Frankincense was also valuable and was an incense that was used in the Temple sanctuary when making offerings or prayers to God. Considered a symbol of holiness and righteousness some connect it to the priesthood and others to the understanding that Christ will sacrifice himself for us. Myrrh was a spice used for embalming and is also bitter and associated with suffering and affliction. It is most commonly considered to be a sign of the death Jesus would suffer for us, but some also consider that it was mixed with oil at the time to use to anoint prophets.
Whatever interpretations we give to the gifts, we do consider they have meaning and that they weren’t just some random gift that was given. And so it is with the most important gifts that we have given and received. Usually they recognize a particular need or interest of the person it is being given to. Sometimes a gift can be food or drink, recognizing a need to celebrate, and often something we know that family to bring us closer together.
Sometimes we give a gift that is used when doing a hobby or interest the person has, like tools for those are interested in wood working or like to build things or sports equipment if they enjoy a certain sport. These allow them to use other gifts they have to develop skills or talents and hopefully enjoy doing so for themselves or also for others at times.
A popular means of giving, gift cards, can be used to express either of these depending on where the card is for and who it is given too. But like most gifts, an important part of receiving it (really obvious in gift cards) is that we use it and will put it to use. A sincere gift needs to be put to use and to its purpose if it is to appreciate its full value. As we consider the gifts we received this Christmas, and all of the most important gifts in our lives, especially those from God, may we show our full appreciation of them by putting them to use as they are intended.