What gifts will we bring to Christ this year?
Like the Magi or the Three Kings, we are called to bring our gifts to the Lord, Pope Francis said during his homily for the feast of the Epiphany Jan. 6.
He said to be like the Magi, to worship as they did, is:
“To bring gold to the Lord and to tell him that nothing is more precious than he is.”
“To offer him incense and to tell him that only in union with him can our lives rise up to heaven.
“To present him with myrrh, balm for the bruised and wounded, and to promise him that we will aid our marginalized and suffering neighbors in whom he himself is present.”
In short, we are to love the Lord, to be in union with him and to love one another, with special attention to the vulnerable.
These aren’t easy gifts to bring; they don’t go on the clearance rack.
The first two feel personal and spiritual. They may be best discerned with the help of a faith-filled friend, spiritual director or parish priest.
The last one lies in the realm of Catholic social teaching and the works of mercy. It lies squarely in the concrete everyday of our world. And the Archdiocese of Louisville has some immediate ways to plug in and get started.
This week, the archdiocese begins its annual Days of Human Dignity, a series of events that highlights various issues related to the dignity of life.
First up is National Migration Week, observed Jan. 5-11. It’s a time for the U.S. church to promote unity and solidarity with migrants and all people who are displaced. The theme of this year’s observance is “Promoting a Church and a World for All.”
In January, the church also observes Poverty Awareness Month, a time to learn more about living in solidarity with the poor.
The Days of Human Dignity continue with a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King on Jan. 20, the Memorial Mass for the Sanctity of Life Jan. 19 and a Walk for Life on Jan. 24. In March, the archdiocese will have an event for Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl, promoting the works of mercy to people in need overseas.
In a nutshell, these days address care for the stranger, the poor, the oppressed and the vulnerable, all of whom are marginalized and suffering.
Unfortunately, each of these issues is divisive in our society. We disagree vehemently both on the source of the problem and possible solutions.
It’s easy to ignore the poor and oppressed because the values of our society tend to lay blame for these conditions on the poor and oppressed — as though the conditions are a moral failure.
Society often regards migrants and refugees with similar disdain, as though they’re at fault for seeking security.
When it comes to vulnerable life, the life of a child, society tells us there is no life. Or, alternately, that child has no right to its life. A mother choosing abortion, often in crisis, receives blame instead of needed support.
How do we as Catholics aid these suffering and marginalized people?
It’s tricky, given the many complicated social and political currents that shape our view of the marginalized and suffering.
Pope Francis offered some guidance a day after the Epiphany. He devoted his homily on Jan. 7 during a morning Mass to the Holy Spirit and the examination of conscience. It’s worth repeating here.
Warning Christians to guard against worldliness that blurs the lines between good and evil, he said:
“The spirit of the world brings you to corruption, to the point that you can’t distinguish between what is good and what is bad; it is all the same, everything is the same,” he said.
Reflecting on the reading from 1 John 3:22-4:6, he said, “When you feel something, when you want to do something or you have an idea, a judgment of something, ask yourself, ‘Does this feeling come from the spirit of God or the spirit of the world?’ ”
Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we bring forth our gifts this year.