Our greatest act of worship is returning the gift of the Cross

What do you get the person who has everything?

God is clear throughout the Scriptures that the act of giving gifts is central to his relationship with us. From manna in the desert to oil that lasted seven nights, God constantly shows that he will provide for his beloved children. Jesus even tells us, “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him” (Mt 7:11).

As far as giving gifts, there simply is no better gift giver than God. If we take a step back to the Garden of Eden, we can see that God has already given us everything. As the crown of creation, the last creatures that he made, everything else in the world was a gift for us. We have been tasked to care for it and to rule it, taking care of the gifts that God has given us. God has even made us as gifts for each other.

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Of course, Eden didn’t last very long. From the beginning, we see that as humans we are never satisfied with the Creator’s gifts. After God gave us everything, we told him that it was still not enough.

Sin is fundamentally a lack of trust in God’s good gifts. When we sin, just like Adam and Eve in the garden, we say that God’s gifts are not enough and instead we must grasp to acquire things on our own. Whether we are struggling with pride, greed, sexual sin or any other kind of sin, it is all a rejection of God’s good gifts.

So what is God supposed to do? He has already given us everything. Yet, after Eden, after we rejected him, he did not give up on us. He became one of us, even giving up his life for us. And still, day after day, we choose to reject his gifts.

I’ll say it again: God has given us everything. Now it’s time for us to learn how to accept his gifts, to see them as the good gifts they are. And it all begins by accepting the gift of the Cross.

Jesus takes our place

Seeing Jesus’ cross as a gift is a no-brainer for many Christians. Thankful that Jesus died so we don’t have to without the hope of eternal life, many Christians wear a cross-shaped necklace and hang a farmhouse-inspired cross on their walls and call it a day. As Catholics, though, our tradition teaches us that there is so much more.

The Cross is God’s greatest gift, but it is not a gift given solely by God to humanity. Because, you see, Jesus is human. On the cross, not only did God give himself up totally for us, but in the person of Christ, humanity gave ourselves totally to God. As our proxy, Jesus accepted every good gift from God on our behalf, trusting God the Father to the very end.

Because Jesus is both God and man, the Cross is also humanity’s gift to God. It is the moment when humanity gives God the gift of our trust. And God, as our good Father, accepts our gift with joy.

Another way to think of the gift of the Cross is to imagine a mother who gives her child money to buy a Mother’s Day gift. The child goes to the store and painstakingly chooses just the right gift for her mother. Even though the mother provided the money, the child is the one who gives the gift, and the mother rejoices, treasuring the gift.

When we accept the gift of the Cross, God accepts our gift with great joy. As individuals, each and every day, in each and every moment, we have an opportunity to unite ourselves to the Cross of Christ as a gift to God. Whether it is in skipping a fancy latte to give to the poor, passing up on a social event to spend time with family, or suffering through serious illness, our sacrifices are efficacious, they are worth something, because in them we acknowledge God’s gift of the Cross.

When we willingly accept the Cross, in our humanity we unite ourselves to Jesus on Good Friday. In accepting minor and major inconveniences and even suffering, we treasure God’s gift of the Cross, which in itself is a gift returned to him.

St. Paul writes, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). God has given us everything to the extent of his very self. Now it’s up to us to choose what we will do with these gifts. Will we dismiss them as foolish, or will we accept them and, in return, offer him the greatest worship?

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