What is the Perfect Birthday Gift for the Baby Jesus?

by Fr Richard Heilman | December 24, 2015 12:25 PM

It’s funny how, sometimes, when our birthday is approaching, we may leave hints to our loved ones as to what we want for a birthday gift. Maybe you leave a catalogue open to the page showing the gift, or make some comment how you “always wanted (fill in the blank).”

Maybe that’s what Jesus did in the week leading up to His birthday. Last Sunday’s reading from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews gives us that “wink, wink” as to what Jesus *truly* wants from us on His birthday …

Brothers and sisters: When Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God’“ (Hebrews 10:5-7).

“Nope, I don’t want sacrifice … nope, I don’t want offerings, holocausts or sin offerings. What I *really* want from you for my birthday is …”

TO DO GOD’S WILL

Here is Jesus speaking directly about his “wish list” …

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 15:14

Faith is the root of which obedience is the beautiful flower and fruit. The proof of love to Him is not by emotional displays but by submission to His will. There is a vast difference between sentiment and practical reality, as we read here …

Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit that he gave us. 1 John 3:18-23

And so, the obedience we speak of is one which is “born out of love.” Remember, it was Mary’s ‘fiat’ (‘yes’) that brought the Holy Spirit: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word” (Lk 1:38). Because Mary submitted, the Holy Spirit came upon her, and she was filled with the life of God. Spiritually speaking, the same thing happens to us once we are ready to set aside our foolish pride and humbly offer our “yes” to God. And, just as Mary delivered a Savior into the world, we are called to bring this Divine Life we’ve received to all we encounter.

Obedience In Love (O.I.L.) is what Sacred Scripture refers to as “fear of the Lord” or holy fear. As distinct from servile fear (fear of punishment), holy fear is a fear of disappointing or being separated from the one you love. St. Francis de Sales wrote, “We must fear God out of love, not love Him out of fear.” It is like a son who loves his dad very much and fears disappointing him or damaging the relationship or being separated in any way. St. Paul wrote: “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, ‘Abba, Father’’’ (Rom 8:15).

Why did the Bridegroom say, “I do not know you” (Mt 25:12) to the foolish virgins who did not bother to bring enough O.I.L? They represent those who are stuck in that kind of empty religiosity that avoids the *extra effort,* the sacrifice that is vital in any real love relationship. Instead, they neglect, take shortcuts, or avoid altogether the greater demands of obedient love. Trapped in spiritual sloth (indifference), there is no holy fear and therefore, they are content to keep God at an impersonal, manageable distance as they remain just a face in the crowd — a pew potato — a bench warmer who is content to be on the team but avoids the *extra effort* to get in the game. The Bridegroom did not know them because they remained just a face in the crowd.

Saint Ignatius wrote, “It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey.” This points to the passage in scripture when Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.“ Jesus was asking us to love Him and receive the supernatural power of grace that ignites the soul and throws us into a life of “heroic virtue.”

Pope Benedict XIV, whose chapters on heroic virtue are classical, thus describes heroicity:

“In order to be heroic a Christian virtue must enable its owner to perform virtuous actions with uncommon promptitude, ease, and pleasure, from supernatural motives and without human reasoning, with self-abnegation and full control over his natural inclinations.”

An heroic virtue, then, is a habit of good conduct that has become a second nature, a new motive power stronger than all corresponding inborn inclinations, capable of rendering easy a series of acts each of which, for the ordinary man, would be beset with very great, if not insurmountable, difficulties. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote,  Obedience unites us so closely to God that in a way transforms us into Him, so that we have no other will but His.” In other words, it just comes naturally or, better yet, supernaturally.

St. Francis de Sales speaks of this obedience born in love this way …

“In so far as divine love beautifies our souls, and makes us pleasing to His Divine Majesty, it is called grace; in so far as it gives us strength to do good, it is called charity; but when it reaches such a degree of perfection that it makes us not only do the good, but do so carefully, frequently and readily, then it is called devotion.”

This Christmas, give the baby Jesus the perfect birthday gift … Give Him your *Devotion* … Your obedience born out of love!

 

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