You can’t force someone to accept a gift

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In Monday morning’s First Reading at Mass, we hear these words of Saint Paul addressed to Timothy, “This is good and pleasing to God our Savior, who wills everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” This sentence has often been misinterpreted by those who claim that salvation is assured for everyone. Based on these words, some also claim that there really is no judgment at death or the existence of hell. All these assertions are false and would have given Saint Paul great distress if he had heard them. In our own age when everything seems to be acceptable, we need to reflect upon their true meaning.

My mother used to say that you cannot force someone to accept a gift. They may initially accept it from you politely but soon after, they will easily and quickly dispose of it because it may not be to their liking. In contrast, when we give a gift, especially when we have given the choice a great deal of thought and perhaps even sacrificed to obtain it, it would be our hope that the gift would be welcomed, used and make a positive difference in the person’s life.

This dynamic can also help us to understand the gift of divine salvation offered to all humanity by Jesus the Lord. It is a gift that is freely given to all. However, there is a profound need on our part to understand it, accept it and allow His presence to transform us by it. The Lord will never force us to accept His saving love. We need to recognize and accept it freely.

It is true that there are many in the world who have not effectively heard the word of salvation in Christ. There are others who have turned away from Christ because of the contradictory and even hypocritical witness that Christians have given them. Their salvation is ultimately wrapped in the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection in ways that our minds cannot understand. But for those of us who have heard the message of salvation in Christ and claim to be His disciples, it is our duty and responsibility to accept the word of salvation offered by the Lord Jesus in and through the Church, allowing His love to transform us into worthy recipients of so priceless a gift. To do otherwise will be to set aside the greatest gift we have been offered, at an ultimate cost.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.