The words that conclude our Gospel passage today are powerful. Over the years I have heard more than one translation of the original Greek. One that is particularly memorable for me puts it this way, “The gift you have received, give as a gift.” This was the translation that was in use in 1975 when I was ordained. When I was preparing to celebrate my Mass of Thanksgiving with my family, it was those words that were emblazoned on the worship aid that we passed out to all the participants.
At first glance the passage may seem to encourage the practice of “regifting.” In the current issue of Reader’s Digest, some asks about whether it is o.k. to give away gifts that they cannot really use.
However, St. Matthew’s Gospel is actually speaking about a specific gift. Throughout his Gospel, St. Matthew emphasizes the special gift of reconciliation that we have in the person of Jesus. Jesus came among us, took on human flesh, in order to reconcile the human family to God. This is the gift to which he is referring in this passage. He wants the Twelve to go out and offer the lost sheep of the House of Israel the gift that they have discovered in Jesus. He makes it very clear that Jesus is sharing his ministry of preaching the nearness of the Kingdom with the Apostles. He is sending them to all who have drifted away from God.
Throughout the Gospel, St. Matthew finds several different ways to emphasize this point. It is a crucial and integral part of our Christian faith. As we have been reconciled with God, we are to extend that gift to all those who need this precious gift. Forgiving others is so important that the idea is enshrined in the basic prayer of our faith, the Lord’s Prayer.
Each Eucharist is another moment of reconciliation. We express our sorrow for sin, and God forgives us without reservation. The gift you have received, give as a gift.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator