By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, November 12, 2012

"A Precious Gift"

Photo by Osservatore Romano
I am in Rome for the annual visit to the Holy See of the Presidency of the CCCB. Archbishop Durocher of Gatineau, our Vice-President, and I are making the rounds of the various departments that serve the Holy Father in his ministry as universal shepherd. On Saturday we met with Pope Benedict. In addition to sharing with him something of what is happening in the Church in Canada, we presented him with a gift in commemoration of the recent canonization of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. As an expression of the gratitude of the Catholic faithful in Canada, we gave the Holy Father a framed reproduction of the opening page of a seventeenth-century biography of Kateri written by a Jesuit who knew and worked with her. This biography was the primary source document in the cause for Kateri's canonization. The Pope received it graciously as "a precious gift".

Yesterday Canadians remembered and gave thanks for another "precious gift", that of the countless men and women who gave their lives in the service of our country. Remembrance Day recalls to our minds their example, which teaches there are things in life worth dying for, worth the entire gift of ourselves. Our country is forever grateful to the many who died that we might enjoy the freedom that is ours.

What is worth dying for? Well, according to Jesus, we are, the world is. He gave of his life that we might live. The incarnation and death of the Son of God made flesh reveals the infinite depths of God's love for us and for the whole world. The gift Jesus made of his entire life is the most "precious gift" of all, because, as we were taught in yesterday's second reading from Hebrews, the self-offering of Jesus brought to the world the offer of eternal salvation. His gift of self is the offer of a love that lasts forever. So when Jesus calls us to follow him, he is inviting us to love him totally, to make of our lives a complete gift to him.

The invitation to loving and total discipleship is behind the Gospel passage of Sunday. Jesus praises the poor widow's gift of two copper coins because she thus gives everything she has, in contrast to the vast sums contributed by the rich who give only from their surplus. By his response to the gift of the widow Jesus is posing a critical question. To those who pay attention to the amount they give, Jesus asks "What are you holding back?" In response to his invitation to love and life, Jesus asks that we hold nothing back and give our all to him. He receives this as a most "precious gift" indeed.

There is nothing to fear here. When the widow of Zarephath gave her last bit of food to the prophet Elijah (first reading), she was left, literally, with nothing for her and her son to live on. God responded to this total gift by providing all that she needed. When we give our all, with complete trust in God's love and providence, he will not fail to provide what we truly need. Jesus Christ is the Father's "precious gift" to the world. May the Holy Spirit make us more and more a "precious gift", in Christ, to our Heavenly Father.