Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Today we see the Magi bringing gifts to Jesus at Epiphany.
Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg wrote this about Epiphany: “The gifts the Magi brought are all symbolic statements of who Jesus is. Gold is the gift proper for a King. Frankincense was offered by the High Priest to God in the Temple of Jerusalem. Myrrh was used as a perfume in the burial preparation of a body. Thus, the identity of Jesus is manifested in these three gifts: He is King, God (and/or High Priest) and Man (someone who will die).
In one way or another, each of us makes the statement of who Jesus is to us based on the gifts we offer from our lives. For some, Jesus is a small part of their lives whose reign extends only to an hour on Sunday morning. Such a limited understanding of Jesus will be reflected in an equally limited gift of one’s life to the Lord. For others, Jesus is the Lord of their lives twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. Such a comprehensive understanding of Jesus will likewise be reflected in an all-encompassing gift of one’s life to the Lord. We tend to give a person the gift that is appropriate because we believe they deserve it and that they can use it.”
What gifts can we offer the world?
Perhaps this can be your New Year’s resolution.
In the world today, our cynical culture would have us acting in ways that are not in keeping with the Gospel values.
Perhaps we should consider revolting against cultural norms and embracing New Year’s resolutions that are truly aligned with God’s plan for each of us.
I’ve looked over advice from Pope Francis over the years and found some wonderful gift ideas. And offer these New Year’s Resolutions-Pope Francis Edition for us all to consider in this new year.
The first resolution: Don’t Gossip or Judge.
We all do it. Yes, even this deacon. After all, we’re human. But is this what God would have us do? Is this what Jesus would have us do?
Pope Francis says when we gossip, we “are doing what Judas did,” and “begin to tear the other person to pieces.”
“Every time we judge our brothers (and sisters) in our hearts or worse when we speak badly of them with others, we are murdering Christians… There is no such thing as innocent slander.”
The next resolution to consider: Make time for others.
In our fast-paced world, this is not an easy one. To make time for others, we have to slow down the pace of our lives and carve out time in our busy schedules to be with or help or encourage others. This ministry of presence can be the greatest gift of all for someone struggling in the world.
Pope Francis does this every day when he carves time out of his busy schedule to call people who have just lost a loved one or suffered some tragedy to offer his love and prayers. Or he does this every time he pens a handwritten letter to someone he doesn’t know. It’s a part of his daily routine. We should make it a part of ours, too.
Another Pope Francis-inspired New Year’s resolution: Meet the poor “in the flesh.”
Commitment to the poor must be “person to person” and “in the flesh.”
Sure, we have institutions that are there to help people in need, but, Pope Francis says, “They do not excuse us from our establishing personal contact with the needy.”
Pope Francis says this must be “a long-term commitment.” Not just a one-time act of charity.
In the coming year, this community will discuss ways to do this better. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Another resolution: Make it a habit to ask the Lord.
Make time for prayer in our daily lives and ask God for help, ask God for advice, ask God what to do about a difficult situation, and then in the stillness of your heart, listen. You might be surprised by what you hear.
And one final Pope Francis inspired New Year’s resolution: Be happy.
Pope Francis has said a lot about a true Christian exuding great joy always. He says joy cannot be held in, it must be let out.
In the first major document of his Papacy, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis says this joy should always remind us of loving our neighbor.
He actually scolds “melancholy Christian faces” as having “more in common with pickled peppers than the joy of having a beautiful life.”
The epiphany of all these Pope Francis inspired New Year’s resolutions (you knew I had to go there)… the epiphany in all these resolutions is it’s exactly what Christ did during his earthly ministry.
Don’t Gossip or Judge
Make time for others
Meet the poor “in the flesh”
Make it a habit to ask the Lord
The epiphany is Christ did all these things two-thousand years ago. This is why Pope Francis rings so true in our world today.
Maybe one or two of these gifts ring true in your heart. I would encourage you to have the courage to bring these gifts to the world as your New Year’s Resolution.