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THE BISHOP'S CROZIER: Giving Away the Gift of Jesus
Bishop James R. Golka

THE BISHOP'S CROZIER: Giving Away the Gift of Jesus

By Bishop James R. Golka

"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us . . .” – Isaiah 9:5

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As Christmas approaches the days grow darker.  In the Holy Land there is war and wrath. The culture in which we live seems increasingly focused on the material things of the world.  We look around and see those who are physically and spiritually hungry, thirsty, naked, ill, and imprisoned.  It can seem as if the darkness is oppressive.

And yet, there is this great hope before us. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Isaiah 9:1).

What is this light?  It is the light that shines forth from a tiny, shivering infant — an infant born into humble anonymity 2,000 years ago. The prophet Isaiah goes on to tell us this child is a gift.  “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us” (Isaiah 9:5).

During my time in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, I served on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I learned that the Lakota Sioux Indian culture has a unique birthday tradition. They celebrate birthdays with a “giveaway” instead of a party.  The person celebrating their birthday invites friends and family to their home and gives away presents instead of receiving them.

The Nativity of Jesus Christ feels like a birthday “giveaway.” The life of Jesus became, and remains, an infinite and eternal gift.  What gift did we receive at the birth of Jesus?  We received everything; we received the bright hope that the everything we received might be infinite and eternal union with the one who gave himself to us.

This gift was not a one-time event that happened in a faraway land.  Jesus is “the gift that keeps on giving” every time we approach him in the Eucharist.

What then do we do with this gift of Jesus in the Eucharist when we receive him?  How do we properly steward this infinite and eternal gift?  The first thing we must do is be continually fascinated by the one who is both the giver and the gift, Jesus Christ.  Then we must become what we receive, we must become the light of Jesus.  Then we must share that gift, we must charitably “giveaway” the life of Jesus within us to those around us.

When we do this, we fulfill the call of the Second Vatican Council, a call that states explicitly man “cannot fully find himself except through the sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et Spes, 24).

The Church teaches us that without making a “sincere gift” of ourselves, without sharing the life of Jesus Christ within us, we cannot find ourselves, we are lost.

This is no small task to “giveaway” Jesus and to sincerely give ourselves!  In describing the gift of Jesus to us, we often use the Greek term “kenosis.”  It means Jesus emptied himself, he gave away his entire self, body and blood, soul and divinity.  Are we ready and willing to do the same?

In addition to Jesus, we have another model of this kenosis, this gift of self-emptying:  our Blessed Mother.

Mary’s kenosis — her emptying of herself — came through a single word: “yes.”  When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with the news of the Incarnation of Jesus within her womb, St. Bernard of Clairvaux believed the angels in heaven held their breath waiting for Mary’s “yes.”

From the quiet utterance, from the gentle, “May it be done to me according to your word,” hope for the entire world was incarnated; the giver and gift became man.

This incarnate gift that comes to us through God’s love and through Mary’s “yes” is ours, “a son is given to us” as Isaiah prophesied.  That son is truly ours, and what is more, he is continually given to us in the Eucharist.  How then do we care for this Eucharistic gift; how do we exercise stewardship of this infinite and eternal gift?

Like my friends in South Dakota, we give him away.  And we give him away again, and again, and again.

As we walk in times that can seem dark, as we await the bright light of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we all humbly say “yes” to Jesus.  May we all unite ourselves with the gift that he is.  May we all have the charity to give him away to those in need of his light and love.

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