Two of my favorite days growing up were my birthday and Christmas day – the two days of the year my parents truly splurged on their children. Our birthday especially because we were given great gifts, got to choose the meal for the evening, didn’t have to do chores and on a night that they could work it into their schedule, we went out for dinner, just the one celebrating their birthday and Mom and Dad. Me – Howard Johnson’s, Lindberg Avenue and Highway 270, fried clams and french fries. In recalling those days from my youth, I don’t ever recall not accepting any of the gifts given to me on those occasions. Granted, I loved some of them more than others, but I still wore the socks and pajamas that were given to me. As a boy, there was probably one gift that stood out above the others – when I received my first baseball glove. I was never much of a baseball player – I think I only played baseball for two seasons (there is another story behind that but I’ll save that for a later day). Receiving that first baseball glove was so much more than that – it was like receiving that first passage into manhood. The feel of the glove, the smell of the leather, putting it under your mattress to get it to fold in half just the way you wanted it; once you received that baseball glove, wearing someone else’s just didn’t feel right. But the best part of getting that glove was being able to participate in the Sunday game of catch with Dad in the backyard. By the time I got my glove, I was the third boy added to the game. We didn’t stand in a square and randomly throw the ball to each other. Nope, the kids lined up on one side of the yard and Dad was on the opposite end. He would throw the ball to us and we would return it to him. I’ll never forget the first time I caught the ball and ran inside with it to show Mom what I had just done…only to go back outside and hear it from my brothers because I had run off with the baseball and stalled the game. So where am I going with this and what is it you can reflect on today…
Just as my parents gave me gifts – that I never rejected – so to does our heavenly Father give us gifts. Below are passages from today’s readings – take a minute to reflect on some of the passages:
Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt
and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;
Who does not persist in anger forever,
but delights rather in clemency,
And will again have compassion on us,
treading underfoot our guilt?
Or our Responsorial Psalm:
He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
And our Gospel:
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
His son said to him,
‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you;
I no longer deserve to be called your son.’
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.
Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.
Then let us celebrate with a feast,
because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’
Then the celebration began.
Our readings today tell us of the greatest gift we can receive – our Father’s love for us. This gift comes to us without cost – all we have to do is accept it. If I could accept the earthly gifts my parents gave to me, how can I not accept the gift of love offered to me by my heavenly Father. He has given us the sacraments as a means of accepting His love. Do we take advantage of these gifts?
Take some time today to think about these gifts…and grab that proverbial baseball glove and play some catch with your Father.