Last year on the feast of the Epiphany, I heard a wonderful sermon given by a priest in a local sedevacantist parish. The priest’s thesis was that each of us is given the opportunity to give something to God. Priests and religious make their daily tithe by praying the Divine Office, while lay people give of their time and talents. In essence, the priest compared our giving to that of the Magi and asked his listeners to think about the presents that they could give the Infant Jesus throughout the rest of the year.
It seems to me that the feast of the Epiphany, even more than Christmas, is about the gifts that we can offer to Our Lord. When we think about how the Magi made the treacherous journey from their homeland in Arabia bearing precious gifts and how they were persecuted by Herod, we need to ask ourselves whether we come close to them in our lives of sacrificial giving. Most people do and I am not an exception to this rule. I must admit here that I have sometimes spent more money on myself than I have given for the good of the Church and for the propagation thereof.
Yet every year, the Church presents the Magi to us and asks about the gifts that we can give. We need not give Our Lord something expensive such as a monstrance made out of gold and precious jewels, a beautiful tabernacle, or traditional vestments for His priests. Our gift can be small like the widow’s mite in the temple of Jerusalem or it can be several hundred dollars of hard earned money. God really doesn’t care what you give him as long as you give something.
If I may make a suggestion, I think one of the best gifts that we can give to Our Lord is ourselves. The gift of self is something that has been written about by many spiritual writers over the centuries and yet we do not seem to understand it. What does it mean to give yourself to God? How do you accomplish this and how do you go about living your gift of self?
Giving yourself to God means living in conformity with God’s will and being willing to make any sacrifice that He is willing to ask of you. I’m sure that there are some of you reading this that are rolling your eyes and saying, “There he goes again with the whole “sacrifice” and “conform” bit.” Yet truth be told, being conformed to God’s willing and sacrificing ourselves to Him is one of the best things that we can do for ourselves.
As St. Alphonsus writes in one of his treatises, conformity to the will of God is a wonderful thing. When we decide to seek out and follow God’s will for our lives, we are living ourselves behind. While God leads us along paths that are scary in the spiritual life, we come to the realization that these are necessary for us in order to save our souls and to save those of others. Every saint that you will find in the breviary or a book of lives of the saints has been conformed to the will of God. Here is an example from one of my favorite saints, St. John Baptist de La Salle.
When de La Salle was a young canon living in Rheims, a young man arrived in town that wanted to build free schools for poor boys. De La Salle, who came from a fairly well off family, gave the man some money. The man came back and asked de La Salle for a building for a school. De La Salle gave him part of his own house. Eventually, the young man would leave the school, its students, and its teachers to de La Salle because he had put the cart before the horse. Yet de La Salle persevered. When he saw that his teachers needed education, he gave them classes in his house. When he noticed that they were poor, de La Salle resigned his canonry so that he could be poor with them. When they had no food or drink, he lodged them in his house and fed them.
How is it then that de La Salle was able to take up this most unpleasant task, which someone else had left and how was he able to triumph over such overwhelming odds? The answer is simple. De La Salle overcame his repugnance by seeking God’s will in those tasks that he hated the most. His trust in Divine Providence is one of the things that distinguishes him greatly. As he often told the Brothers of the Christian Schools for years on end, “God will provide.”
Conformity to the will of God, therefore, is important and with this idea comes the idea of sacrifice. Every day, we are asked to die to ourselves. Whether it be in small ways or great, God sees it and is glad because we did out of love for Him. For example, a man that usually drinks six cups of coffee every day forgoes them all because he could spend his money supporting the poor. This is an example of sacrifice. The children of Fatima went without water during the hottest days of the Portuguese summer; this is also sacrifice.
With conformity and sacrifice, we learn that we are not here to do our own will, but the will of God. Although it may be difficult for us to know what that will is, we can do no better than making an act of self-sacrifice to God. Why not then do it tomorrow on the feast of the Epiphany and offer yourself to Our Lord?
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us!