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One-of-a-Kind Gifts

April 22, 2017

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38

Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, anniversary gifts, other holiday gifts, gifts for no reason—they are all fun to give and to receive. Who hasn’t given a carefully selected and wrapped gift and waited with anticipation for the recipient to open the gift? Who hasn’t pushed his or her gift in front of a loved one and said, ”Here, open this first?” A true gift is an expression of love for a person. It is freely given with no expectation of receiving anything in return, and with no obligation attached. These are the best gifts.

Some people have a special talent in finding the perfect gift for a person. These people are keenly observant of others. They know the person’s hobbies. They know the person’s needs and desires. They imagine gifts of experiences. They seek to give a one-of-a-kind gift. God knows the deepest needs and fears of every human heart, and he knows how to address them.  He is the master gift-giver. And he doesn’t wait for special occasions.  He gives us gifts for the only reason that matters—because he loves us.  He knows what to give each of us as unique human beings.  No one can give the kind of gifts he gives.  His are truly one-of-a-kind gifts.

This week’s Scriptures list some of the gifts our Father delights in giving us, and what our response should be.[1]  In the first reading, Luke notes that through repentance and baptism, God gives us the gifts of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit: “Peter said,Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites’” Acts 2:38-39.

Luke also describes the gift of Jesus’ presence that the men on the road to Emmaus received. (Luke 24: 13-35).  He appeared to his disciples and to many others for 40 days after his Resurrection and before his ascension.   He did this not only to prove the truth of his claim to be God’s Son, but also to bridge the gap between his death and the arrival of an extra special gift–the gift of the Holy Spirit–50 days after his death.

The gifts that God gives us, including the forgiveness of our sins and the Holy Spirit, are truly one-of-a-kind gifts.  God knows that we are burdened by our sinful selves.  Our fears, shortcomings, mistakes, missteps, failures, and addictions weigh on us—sometimes for years.  God knows that these burdens need to be lifted so that we can live lives that are a testament to him and to our fellow man.  He lifts our burdens from us when we seek his forgiveness.

God also knows that we need help, which is why he kept his promise to send us the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit lives within us, guides us, encourages us, and sustains us.   These God-given gifts were not purchased with gold, silver, dollars, euros, or bitcoin—but with Christ’s own precious blood: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed, . . . but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:17-25).  Paul confirms this by telling us that God extended to us the gift of his saving grace: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8: 8).

The Psalmist asks how he can repay “the Lord for all his goodness to me?” (Psalm 116: 12). Of course, we cannot repay him, but we can be grateful for the gifts that he has chosen for us.  Gratitude is a natural response to a carefully chosen and special gift. The gifts that God has chosen for us are very special, one-of-a-kind gifts.  No one else will or can give you the things that your heavenly Father has given to you to live your life fully and to enjoy his company forever.  The psalmist properly expresses gratitude and vows to keep his promises to God.  Now it’s your turn to express your gratitude to God for forgiving your sins and for sending his Spirit to help you navigate the shoals and eddies of  life.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Third Sunday After Easter are Acts 2:14; Acts 2:36-41; Psalm 116:1-14; 1 Peter 1: 17-25; Luke 24:13-35.

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