We are all familiar with the three gifts of the Magi: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Some say that they are symbols of who Jesus is: the gold acknowledges his royal dignity as the King of the Universe, frankincense proclaims his divinity and myrrh is the foretaste of His redeeming death and burial. But, what do the gifts mean for us today?
St Gregory the Great was Pope in the late 500’s and early 600’s and offers us another way to view the gifts. Gregory challenges us to see that these are the gifts expect from us everyday of our life’s
“Jesus wants us to give him “gold” by “shining in his sight with the light of wisdom”. This gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift to understand life and creation as God does. When we strive to see the world as God does, we are able to make decisions based on the values of the Gospel. We offer God the gold of our lives by serving him with every moment of our lives. All our actions, all our decisions, our views, everything is for the honor and glory of God.
Gregory tells us the “frankincense, the incense used at Mass, symbolizes prayer”. The incense we use here at Mass is a sign of our prayer rising before the Lord. We burn it to honor the sacred among us. Notice what is incensed:
the altar: the image of Christ among us
the Gospels: The Word of God among us
you: the living Body of Christ
God asks us to offer the fragrance of our prayer every single day. We are called to offer God the very scent of our lives; we are to offer to God the smoke of our joy and sorrows, our hopes and dashed dreams, all every moment of our lives.
Finally, from Gregory, we learn that the “myrrh is symbolized mortification of the flesh. We offer myrrh when we offer up the desires of our flesh”. So, what does that mean to us? This means we give up the things that get in our way of following Christ even when it causes us discomfort. Fasting from the computer, our phones, etc. are not comfortable for us today, but when all this gets in our way as growing in the spiritual life, then we need to make a choice. We fool ourselves into thinking that the only time we give something up or do without is during Lent. However, it is a necessary part of our spirituality every day. Not because we must, but, because we want God that much in our lives. Abstaining from meat on Friday was a mortification to prepare for Sunday, the one hour fast before Communion is doing with out to receive something greater and more important than food. It is interesting that we all can agree that going on a diet is good for our physical health, Gregory and the gift of myrrh asks us to see that going without is vital for our spiritual health, too.
The mystery of the gifts is a challenge for us today. As a community of faith, may the wisdom of God direct every moment of our lives as disciples of Jesus. Let us offer the sweet smell of our prayer at home and here at our worship of the altar. Finally, may the sacrifices we make for God be a sweet offering to the One who gives us all.