Difficulty is Part of the Gift
“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are you He who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
One Christmas a boy in a remote far away village gave his teacher an exquisite seashell as a gift. He had walked many difficult miles over treacherous terrain to find it, to a special bay, the only place such shells could be found.
The teacher was quite moved by the boy’s gift, and understood where it had come from and the difficulty involved in obtaining it: “What a beautiful shell. You must have walked many difficult and dangerous miles for it. I am deeply grateful for your gift,” the teacher said.
“Teacher,” the boy said, “long, difficult and dangerous walk is part of my gift.”
In today’s gospel by St. Matthew, we hear about the mission of St. John the Baptist and Jesus’ reply.
St. John knew that Jesus was the Messiah. But he sent his disciples to Jesus so that they could shed their mistaken notions about the kind of Messiah to expect, and come to recognize Jesus.
With St. John the Baptist, the Old Testament is brought to a close and we are on the threshold of the New Testament. The Precursor had the unique honor of ushering Christ in, making him known to all. God had assigned him the exalted, but long and difficult and dangerous mission of preparing his contemporaries to hear the Gospel. The Baptist’s faithfulness is recognized and proclaimed by Jesus. The praise he receives is a reward for his humility: St. John, realizing that his role is now complete, states that, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
St John the Baptist was the greatest in the sense that he had received a mission very unique, but equally treacherous, long and difficult in the context of the Old Testament. However, in the Kingdom of heaven – the New Testament, inaugurated by Christ, the divine gift of grace makes the least of those who faithfully receive it greater than the greatest in the Old Testament.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, often the most beautiful gifts we give are not the seashells but the “long and difficult walk of forgiveness, mercy, empathy, and understanding.”
Especially at this busy time of the year, we can be overcome with the shopping, the mailing, the addressing, and the decorating. But always remember that “long, difficult walk” is as much a part of the love and mercy we give and receive; and that the best Christmas presents are those of the things of God, the things that are from above and which come from the heart and soul. This Christmas, along with your material gifts, please consider giving a spiritual bouquet – say or offer a rosary, or a chaplet of mercy, or a holy hour, or even a mass intention, because God is never outdone in generosity.
Mary, Cause of our Joy, pray for us!