Bishop’s Letter: Always remember life is a gift

Jan 4, 2024

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you this new year! As we journeyed with our Blessed Mother Mary and her spouse, St. Joseph, through the Advent and Christmas seasons, we heard Scripture readings about the desire for a child and the wondrous work of God who gifts us each child.

Manoah, of the tribe of Dan, and his wife were unable to have children, yet they prayed mightily for a child. The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and spoke of her bearing a child who would be consecrated to God from the womb. She dedicated the child, Samson, to God that he might glorify God all his days. “The woman bore a son and named him Samson, and when the boy grew up the Lord blessed him” (Jgs 2:24). We heard about Hannah who also prayed for a child and when Samuel was born, she dedicated him to God in thanksgiving. Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, was childless and in her old age, bore a son, John. She also dedicated him to God. The angel, Gabriel, visits our Blessed Mother, announcing that she will bear a child, and name Him, Jesus, for He is the Savior of all people.

Catholics believe in the gift of life, from conception to natural death. We believe that the gift of life is given to us by God for God. Scripture foretells the coming of these priests, prophets and kings and we learn of their role in salvation history. Each mother or father dedicated the child born to God that through that child, God is known to all the people. We are called to be dedicated to God all the days of our lives.

We receive this gift and wrap the child with God’s love, teaching the child to know, love and serve God that God is glorified. The Sacrament of Baptism begins this relationship just as the conception of the child in the womb begins our own love relationship with the child and magnifies our love for God. The Sacrament of Baptism is a most beautiful and magnificent gift for … it is a seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship (CCC 1216; St. Gregory of Nazianzus).

God fulfills a promise. Those who receive the gift of life also return to God what they have received, magnified. Receiving life becomes the splendor of God as each person touched by the birth of the child begins in his or her own way to participate in salvation history.

There is more to the story than the birth itself. The fiats of our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph help us to understand how we offer our entire being to our children so that God’s presence is known throughout the earth. Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord that He be consecrated to the Lord (Lk 2:23). The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him (Lk 2:40). Each year, Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover and when Jesus was 12, they brought Him also.

In our own world, prayer, participation in the celebration of Mass and receiving the Sacrament of the Eucharist, availing ourselves to the Sacrament of Penance, reading Scripture, offering ourselves as volunteers in the Lord’s name to assist those in need are all important for our spiritual health that we are able to lead our young people to God. Speaking God’s language of love to all the people we meet leads our young people to know God. For example, when Mary received Gabriel’s message and learned of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary went to help her.

Life is a gift. God calls each one into relationship with Him and loves each one completely. As God names us from the womb, we promise to lead His people to Him. May our blessing of life become God’s gift for one another.