Twenty-Second Sunday of the Year – Deacon Andy

Have you ever thought about the “perfect gift?”

What could it be?  It’s certainly not some fancy car or big house, and, I’m pretty sure it’s not any of the things that the advertising world would like us to believe we can’t live without.

These are all material things; made, or finished by human hands, and all have a monetary value attached to them. Regardless of how well made or expensive these things might be, I seriously doubt any of them are perfect.

Cars and houses, no matter how much they cost have parts or systems that will break down from time to time.  And all of those other things that we can’t live without… they’re only perfect until the next thing comes along.

So, if the “perfect gift” isn’t any of the things that the world would like us to believe are perfect, what could it be?

Well, Mark’s Gospel makes it clear that we will not find the “perfect gift” coming from human traditions.  And just before the Gospel, James tells us where to look for the “perfect gift”… he says look above!

Before I spend any more time trying to find the “perfect gift” let me ask you to imagine that you knew, without any doubt what that “perfect gift” was AND that you could give it to anyone… or maybe you could give it to everyone.

What would it be like to give that “perfect gift”?  Would the person you gave it to be as excited about the gift as you?

Or, what if you were on the receiving end, what would it be like to receive the “perfect gift?”  Might you wonder if you were worthy of such a gift?

But perhaps more important than giving or receiving the perfect gift, is to think for a minute about how this gift might affect your relationship.  If you gave the gift would you, maybe even subconsciously expect something in return?  If you received the gift would you feel an obligation to somehow try to repay the person who gave it to you?

I think that almost everyone here, if we are truly honest with ourselves would say that if we received the gift we would want to give something in return.  And, if we gave the gift we would want some kind of recognition. At the very least a “thank you.”

It’s human nature!

We give gifts because it makes us feel good, but we still like to hear thank you.  We donate to causes because it helps us feel like better people, but we want to know how our donation is helping.  And when we receive we feel an obligation to give back.

As a result we find that the “Perfect Gift” – one free of any presumptions, quid pro quos, or any expectation of reciprocity is almost impossible to find, much less to give or receive.

It is much easier to behave like the Pharisees and scribes who were so wrapped up in following the letter, rather than the spirit of the law that they could not see the “Perfect Gift” that had been given to them.

You see, the “perfect gift” isn’t really all that hard to identify, we just have to be open to the fact that the “perfect gift” isn’t a material thing.

The “perfect gift” is a relationship where: love is unconditional and there is never an expectation of getting something in return.

The “perfect gift” was given to the Pharisees, just as it is given to us each and every day in the person and true presence of Jesus Christ.

But do we recognize it?

We gather for the celebration of mass, we believe that Jesus Christ is present to us in the Eucharist and that he wants to be our friend; to have a close personal relationship with each and every one of us.

But do our lives reflect that we know that we have been given the “Perfect Gift” in Jesus Christ?  Do we live in relationship with Him?  Do we love Him unconditionally?  Do we confide in Him our deepest feelings?

I think anyone who watches the news would have to admit that most of the people in our society don’t! Many people in our world… our region… even our local community go through life behaving like the Pharisees, expecting everyone they encounter to follow the letter of the law without thinking, even for a minute about the spirit of the law, and certainly not sharing the love that Jesus gave us.