Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Listening to the children of the poor, we may receive an entirely new concept of “Christmas gift.” Once, a missionary went to the highlands of Honduras to celebrate mass on the night after Christmas Day. Arriving early in the evening, he attended the meeting of the youth group. The group’s leader asked the missionary to say something. He only inquired about the children’s Christmas gifts. But the children didn’t seem to understand. Rather than describe any toy or clothing they might have received, they only mentioned how they would be more obedient and prayerful. Then the priest realized that he was the one who lacked comprehension. The children’s parents were too destitute to provide material gifts for them. “Christmas gifts” were what they all did to show Jesus how much they love him.
In the reading today from Jeremiah, the prophet provides us with a similarly new concept of “the Promised Land.” He foretells all the descendants of Israel taking up residence on their own rightful land. Jesus fulfills this prophecy by giving us, the new Israelites because of our relationship with him, the Promised Land. But the lot that Jesus has in mind is not real estate in the State of Israel. No, Jesus will provide a place in heaven for those who are keep his commandments.
This promise of heaven may sound like a shady deal. But I suspect that the more chastened among us will gladly take it. We realize that those Honduran highlander children have better Christmas gifts than kids receiving the latest Nintendo issue. We also believe that a share in heaven, which begins with true love in this life, is better than any place on earth.