Senseless Gifts

January 3, 2021; Mt 2:1-12; Epiphany

We all know that the Magi brought three gifts for the Christ Child: gold, frankincense and myrrh. But have you ever wondered how the parents of Jesus reacted to those gifts? Were they pleased to receive them? Were they confused by them? Or perhaps, were they a bit miffed that these were the gifts that were given? There was, of course, no question about the value of gold. Gold has a universal importance in all times and cultures. As to frankincense, it carried some value. It was an incense used to sweeten the air. Certainly the holy family could use it profitably for as long as they had to stay in that dirty stable. But myrrh? Myrrh was an ointment used to prepare bodies for burial. I can imagine that after the magi left, Mary turned to Joseph and said, “What are we going to do with this? Myrrh is no gift of a baby.” Indeed, when the gift of myrrh was presented it seemed to carry no purpose for the Holy Family. But that changed. Years later, as Mary watched the lifeless body of her son taken down from the cross, she realized that she needed some myrrh. It took years for the real purpose of myrrh to become clear.

The same is true for us. As we live our lives, God leads us to one place and to another. God gives us one experience after another. At the time, some of the experiences that we undergo seem without value. But every experience that God gives us has a purpose, and in time that purpose will emerge.

If you have to go through a rough patch in your marriage, with arguments and counseling and constant stress, it might seem that that experience is simply a useless burden. But years later as it becomes obvious that you will have care for a dying spouse or become a minister to a family member with a fatal disease, you might find yourself strengthened. This is because your commitment has been tested, your love has been refined, and your strength has been hardened to undertake what is necessary. As we continue to deal with coronavirus, it may seem that the only advantage of isolating and limiting our freedom is to keep ourselves safe. But years from now when you walk your daughter down the isle at her marriage or you hold your great grandchild, you may realize that you love them much more deeply. This is because the isolation demanded by the virus has shown us how valuable our relationships are. If you have to go through the heartbreak of walking with a child or a family member as they deal with drug addiction, if you have had to watch your heart be pulled this way and then that, your hope built up and then crashed down, it may seem that the whole experience was just needless pain. But years later when you retire and begin to look for something to keep yourself active, you might discover that you have a real contribution to make in volunteering in a drug rehabilitation program. This is because you know firsthand the devastation that comes from addiction.

None of God’s gifts are wasted. Even when something seems to us to be without value, with time its real purpose can mature. Therefore, today we should embrace all the good gifts that are obvious in our lives and be thankful for them. But we should not dismiss those things which make no sense. We should carefully set them aside, because they too may prove a blessing when God’s time is right.  

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