Years ago, when my youngest, Isabelle was about 5 we were sitting around the dinner table speaking about what we would be giving up for lent. As we went around the table, each one of us would select a Lenten penitence. Suddenly Isabelle says, “I don’t get it.” When I asked her what she didn’t get, she replied “lent”. So, we gave her an explanation (as much as you can give to a 5-year-old). She still had a blank look on her face and said “yeah I don’t get it” we spoke to her again of Jesus going into the desert for 40 days and how we joined Jesus in this mission. She still had the blank look… before going on- being the good and very patient mom that I am :D, I asked her what don’t you get? She replied “lent– what did we borrow? “
After the giggling and shaking of our heads, we replied, nothing lent, just given….
A few years later I unboxed that story and looked at it in a different way. I contemplated how fortunate we are that our salvation is not something borrowed- or on temporary loan to us. Our salvation is a gift freely given.
Ephesians 2 4- 10 says:
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
We are given Salvation as a gift. I started to contemplate this. I thought of all the great and not so great gifts I have been given throughout my lifetime. I thought of how I have treated all those gifts. Some with reverence and others I could honestly not tell you that I know where they are now. The more precious the gift, the more I needed to treat it with kid gloves, putting it away and bringing it out on special occasions, not wanting to have it damaged in any way. My most treasured gift is a ring my mother left me when she passed on to be with Our Lord. It is a beautiful ring, and I only use it on special occasions, each time I bring it out, it makes me feel close to her. Is this how I experience my gift of salvation as well?
Am I the Christian who comes to Mass and then returns my relationship with Christ to the shelf until next time we meet again? Returning to my gift as I need it or when I have time? Or, at times am I overwhelmed by this gift and feel unworthy of it? I know that when my father gave me the ring, I handed it back, I felt so unworthy, surely, she meant one of my other sisters to have such a treasure. The words “Your mother wanted you to have this”, brought tears to my eyes. How could that be? My sisters were all closer to her. This ring reminds me constantly that Our Father in heaven doesn’t give us according to our merit but according to His limitless love and mercy. I think many of us struggle with feeling worthy of salvation, so instead of basking in the love of the Father, we shy away. I know it took me some time to even wear my mom’s ring. I thought it was too much and I didn’t feel worthy of having received it. I hope we don’t do the same with the gift of salvation our heavenly Father has lavished on us. It’s not about being worthy, it’s about being loved.
I think that our relationship with Christ must become an everyday gift, not the one that comes out occasionally. When I wear my mother’s ring, I get to share her memories with everyone I meet- same with my gift of salvation. Let’s share that with everyone.
Years ago, there used to be a show on PBS-The Antiques Roadshow. I remember a gentleman who had a hat from one of the Conquistadores. It was all metal and beautifully engraved. All the antiques dealers came to his station to look at this precious item. The appraiser was asked to verify its authenticity and price. He went on about this object’s history. When asked about the price – he looked at the hats owner and asked him a question. Why is the hat so shiny? The gentleman sheepishly bowed his head and said it was extremely dirty and I was embarrassed to bring it here in that condition, so I spent hours polishing it. The price went from over 300,000 to about 10,000 – you see in polishing it up he took away the patina.
We should not be shy about our gift of salvation; it should make us stand out, for it draws others to Him. Sometimes the best compliment I can receive is not “have you lost weight?”; but “are you a Christian?” We need to be well worn Christians. Full of the patina of Christ. In today’s society we are often timid in showing our Christian patina. Being frail enough to say that amid my joy or sorrows I turn to Christ. Our frailty is what brings us closer to Jesus since this is where we need Him most. This is also where we draw others to Jesus. Because it is in the worn patches of our lives that God’s love and salvation shine through. When I can testify of His love at the darkest moments of my life others can be strengthened. This gift of salvation comes to us when and where we need it. Let us humble ourselves before the throne of mercy, implore God for it and realize that we are all in need of saving. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So, when you find yourself shying away from this very lavish gift remember that Jesus earned it for us while we were still in sin. It is not something that we can earn, rather it is something God gives freely and all we need to do is say thank you and treasure it.
As we get ready to enter this Lenten season with Jesus, let us focus on this treasure purchased at so high a price. Let us honor it by daily giving thanks and becoming well-worn Christians letting God’s light shine through. May this Lent bring us all closer to the heart of Jesus.
This Christmas I want to share with you something that happened to me. You may begin to read this and think it’s better suited for Lent, but stay with me. About 10 years ago I was in a bad car accident. I had so many internal injuries i felt my middle name was pain. I remember clinging so much to Jesus to get through it all. A few weeks after a spinal surgery I was at a weekday Mass. I remember sitting there and as always offering this Mass for the salvation of my children. I can imagine many parents pray for the same thing. I could hear this small voice inside of me saying “what will you give in exchange for their salvation?” I was in shock! We make deals with Jesus – usually over a toilet bowl after drinking too much- or another crisis moment. We promise anything to get whatever we are praying for. I had never heard of God making a deal with me- I will trade you something for what you want. I questioned Him “Lord is this really you?” and again the voice- “what will you give for their salvation?” Jesus I would give anything I thought- truly anything to ensure my little ones were kept close to the heart of Jesus. The voice again questioned “would you give your leg?” I was double shocked… this could not be Jesus speaking to me. He DOES NOT make deals!
I pondered that question. I was already in so much pain. Really how could God want more than the suffering I was already offering up? In the end I grudgingly responded, “ok take my leg, but don’t ask me which one- that would be just too much for me.” Then silence. I continued through Mass and was reflecting on all that had happened in just a space of a moment. I could not believe that God was asking this of me. I thought back to all the bible stories I knew and could not think of one where God made a deal with man. In the contrary man was quite often making deals with God. I remembered how Abraham had haggled with God for the lives of those in Sodom, going back a few times to renegotiate the terms until he got the number from 50 to 10.
At the end of Mass, I heard the voice again. “Come and contemplate me on the altar.” The weekday Masses were given at the little chapel behind the main altar. Of course, at His summons, I rise and walk to the main altar not knowing where this is going. This is what I see:
I focused on the crucifix and hear the voice again “ I don’t need your leg; I want their salvation more than you do.” All I could see was Jesus on that cross given up for each one of us. This is how much God is invested in our salvation. He had given not a leg or sent His word that had created everything out of nothing, He was willing to give His only begotten son.
Why is this better suited for Christmas? Well, it’s a gift that God gave me and I want to share with you. To all you parents out there worried about your children. God wants their salvation more than you do! These words gave me so much hope and peace. I just knew that all the stupid mistakes I made could not undo God’s plan for me. The same with my children. As I watch them grow and explore life, not always making the choices I would, I pray and know that God has a plan for them as well. To all of you that do not have children, drink in the love of the Father sent in this message. “I want it more than you do!” We may struggle and go off course but if we place our trust in God, we can be confident in knowing that He wants our salvation more than we can imagine. Continue to come back to Him with the confidence of a beloved child. You will always be loved.
One last thing; I am the youngest of nine(my mom was a living saint!) There was always chaos and an abundance of love in our home. One day in frustration I asked her as I saw my older siblings falling for the lures of the world; “mom, you are such a godly woman, and have raised us in the church, don’t you get frustrated that your children are falling away from the church?” Her response stays with me till this day. “My job is to plant the seeds; it is up to God when He will harvest them. I have planted good seeds.” That had to be at least 35 years ago and as I look at our family now, I see that God is harvesting these good seeds planted with love. So, continue to plant good seeds, and know that in His time God will harvest them in your children.
Merry Christmas. I pray that this testimony touches you and that the hope of Christ is reborn in you this Christmas!