At the beginning of February, St Benet’s will commence our active participation in the “Alive in Faith” programme.
(See “The Third Gift to St Benet’s, below!)
The Journeyings and Gifts of the Wise Men
When we celebrated the Epiphany, I gave three examples of gifts that are perhaps unexpected – three examples of day-to-day gifts that are being brought towards ourselves, here and now, in this parish … in a curious parallel with the wonderful gifts brought by the Magi to the Infant King all those years ago.
Those gifts by the Magi, indicated their persistence and their courage as well as their great generosity – and are integral to our celebration of Christmas.
We Christians have purposes in common with those of the Magi- we recognise the renown of the Christ child, enthroning him in our hearts because of the new life and the new hope he brings us (like every human child, Jesus is life and hope for the future).
But the Magi recognised something more in Jesus: they knew that he had a special identity – he was more than a King – and that Jesus had a unique destiny, capable of changing the world for those who believe in him. The Wise Men show this awareness of who Jesus was in the three gifts they bring.
In a sense it is natural that their generosity, representing all that is best in human nature, should have recognised Jesus as the Christ Child – just as Jesus comes into our lives to bring out the best in us … if we can only allow him to do that.
The story of Jesus is the story of God’s incredible generosity towards humankind … and it is our great privilege as God’s creatures to reflect a few bits of that generosity in the gifts that we might bring – in the spirit of Jesus – to one another, within God’s family in the church, and then extending eventually with the missionary church to a wider human family spread around the world.
Ultimately, at the end of our lives, we bring the gifts we have received back towards God himself .. and let’s hope we have been able to do something with them!
Relevance to us – in 2017
In our lives as Christians, we need to recognise that we have been enabled to receive divine gifts from God every day of our existence, remembering that this is only possible if we remain truly open to the Life that comes to us from the Giver of all Good Gifts.
It’s also worth bearing in mind though, that the Gifts of God sometimes reach us in rather unlikely ways (think of that train of camels bearing the Magi all the way to Bethlehem) and we need to learn how to unwrap our gifts sensibly – with reverence and with respect to where they come from.
The First Gift to St Benet’s
On the last Sunday of January, we shall be visited at St Benet’s by representatives of the Knights of St Columba.
The gift they bring is the opportunity for Catholic men to join an organisation through which we might develop our Christian witness in many new ways – through service and through mission, within our parish community and beyond. The Knights of St Columba aim to build up God’s family through works of faith, hope and charity – as they do in Lowestoft and Gt Yarmouth and hopefully soon in Beccles too.
These good Christian examples enable us to inspire one another. They are like the gold brought by the Magi to the infant Jesus and the Holy Family – representing the Kingship of Christ at the heart of our lives.
The Second Gift to St Benet’s
The gift of frankincense takes us beyond kingship to divinity – just as our worship of Christ in the Mass and at other times surpasses the homage we pay to one another even as faithful Christians (because Christ, our morning star, outshines even the greatest of our fellow human beings).
At the end of last year, St Benet’s received a generous legacy (more than £10,000) from the estate of Winifred Ellis.
Winifred’s husband Ken was school caretaker and sang in the choir for many years.
This is a wonderful tribute to the work of Jesus Christ among us; and of course we must pray that our star may guide us as we seek to put this generous gift to the best possible use – in faith, hope and charity. All your suggestions will be gratefully received, and please pray for the work of our finance committee.
The Third Gift to St Benet’s
There is something equivocal about the third gift – the myrrh brought to Jesus by the wise men: it foreshadows the vinegar mixed with myrrh which is given to Our Lord on the Cross towards the end of St John’s Gospel… suggesting to us that this is linked with the greatest gift of all – the very life of Jesus, given for all humanity, the Gift of God Himself.
How many times a day are we enabled truly to extend a Gift of God to any of our human brothers and sisters?
In the church, we believe that this is possible many, many times in a day and so our third gift this year is the opportunity to strengthen the work of the Catholic church, in our part of the world, with the Diocesan “Alive in Faith” programme.
At the heart of this programme, and the part that is particularly relevant in our Benedictine parishes of Beccles and Bungay, is the need to provide financial support for the training of future priests in the Diocese of East Anglia.
There are currently almost a dozen seminarians in training for the diocese, while trainees at Downside – the Benedictine community that has up till now supplied Beccles and Bungay – have been diminishing in number.
If you want to learn more about the “Alive in Faith” programme, there are leaflets at the back of the church, and further details can be found by clicking on this link to the diocesan website.
In addition, information specific to St Benet’s will be circulated throughout the parish during the coming weeks.
Each new year, we receive untold opportunities of demonstrating the scope of God’s gifts to us. As we wish each other a prosperous 2017, let’s emulate the wise men in their generosity and in their recognition of Jesus Christ present among us, our light for all the nations.
Fr Martin Gowman,