By Rev. Msgr. John J. Enzler, President and CEO of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Washington
I'm very pleased to offer this reflection on the theme of "gift" as we celebrate the last week of Advent. I've been reflecting upon one of my favorite Masses of the year. It is the Christmas Eve Children's Mass with hundreds of children, excited about Santa Claus and presents. I normally begin my homily by asking this question, "Whose birthday is it?" Thankfully, they know the answer and sometimes they yell out in unison, "JESUS!" Then I ask them a difficult question. "Why, if it is Jesus' birthday, why do you get gifts for Christmas?" There is almost always a pause and a look of confusion, particularly, for the younger children. When pressed, they begin to think more and more about the incongruity of that experience. On their birthday, they receive gifts and on Jesus' birthday, they also receive gifts. I then ask them if any of them have a gift for Jesus for Christmas - a bicycle, a tablet, video games? Those don't seem to fit, do they? So, the final question I ask is, "What can you give Jesus for Christmas?" Again, almost in unison, they shout "LOVE!"
I share that because, out of the mouth of babes, we learn a very important lesson about this fourth week of Advent. What is our response to Jesus in preparation for Christmas? Are we able to receive the gift of Jesus through his Incarnation and are we able to respond to that gift with a particular effort to help those in need? Here at Catholic Charities, I'm always amazed how many people take that seriously. The Angel Tree gifts, the financial support for the poor, and the desire to make a difference to those around us, is the hallmark of the Christmas season. For over a decade, we in the Archdiocese have been reminded through posters, placards, and lawn signs to "Find the Perfect Gift." In a time when things have changed dramatically for families and COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the land, more than ever, people need our assistance and long for our help.
So, on Jesus' birthday, what is our gift to Him this week, in response to the gift of Himself to us?