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Your Nothing is a Gift to Jesus – First Mass Homily

Peter said to Jesus: “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?”

Peter is asking an intense, fundamentally human question: “Lord, what will happen to us? We have forsaken our homes. Our families. Our jobs. We’ve let go of everything. We are ALL IN for You — What will happen to us? Was this sacrifice worth it?

This question is really important, because in our world today — with so much fear and uncertainty, so much apathy and hostility towards our faith — it’s perhaps more obvious than ever:

Being Catholic — being a disciple of Jesus — makes absolutely no sense unless He really is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Unless He really is worth throwing EVERYTHING else away.

And so Peter’s vulnerable question is deeply relevant to each of us: “We’ve given up everything. What will there be for us?”

But let’s take a step back and ask: Why? What motivates this kind of sacrifice? Why would we want to give everything up anyway?

Because Jesus gave up everything first.

He went all in for you and for me — He left Heaven and lowered Himself. He took on our flesh. He exposed himself to our hatred. He dared to deliver the whole word of God faithfully — He gave up His energy, He gave up His sweat, He gave up His tears, He gave up His hands to be nailed, His side to be pierced. He gave up His Blood on the Cross.

My brothers and sisters: There is nothing that can be taken from us — nothing we can lose — nothing we can freely give up — that exceeds the total self-gift of Jesus.

We cannot be more generous than the infinitely-generous God! 

Jesus is the ultimate Sacrifice. Jesus is the Victim. Jesus is the Priest — The one who truly gives up — Who offers up — everything for our sake.

So let’s reframe Peter’s question: “Jesus has given up everything for us. What will there be for Him?

The answer is this: the Church.

The Church is Jesus’ great gift that He receives: Men and women fully alive by grace! Sinners, redeemed! Enemies of God, now turned friends. Creatures doomed for the grave — now raised up to Eternal Life! 

Yes, the Church is Jesus’ precious reward — dearly won from the Cross.

We catch just a glimpse of this mystery when we hear Christ praying in John’s gospel with these words: “Father, they are Your gift to me!” 

He’s talking about the Church! He’s saying: “Father, my disciples are Your gift to me! They are my glory! I desire them. I want them to be with me forever. You have drawn all of them to me! They are the reason for my ultimate sacrifice!”

We hear all this and perhaps wonder: “How is this possible? How am I a “gift” for Jesus? Am I really worth the death of God on a Cross?” Indeed, as we heard in our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we don’t seem like the best possible gift for Jesus: 

“Consider your own calling!” we hear Paul say. “Not many of you were wise by human standards. Not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth!”

We’re small. We’re weak. We’re poor. At the end of the day, we don’t seem to have ANYTHING worthwhile to offer God.

But… That’s JUST where you are wrong! You — yes, YOU —are the Father’s precious, beloved gift to Jesus Christ. You were purchased at a steep and unsurpassable price.

Why?

Because God is good, and He wants to reveal His goodness and love in and through you. 

“God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise,” St. Paul continues, “and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for NOTHING, to reduce to nothing those who are something — so that no human being might boast before God.”

Believe it or not, your NOTHINGNESS is a precious gift to Jesus, because precisely through that Nothingness, the Victory is totally HIS and not yours. And this is for YOUR joy! YOUR peace! YOUR salvation!

What a gift to Jesus our “nothing” truly is! This is our great boast as Christians! We depend entirely on a God who gave up everything out of sheer, undeserved love… We stand only by His grace! “Whoever boasts should boast in the Lord!”

Christ can truly say, therefore, to each one of us: “I’ve given up everything for you. What will there be for Me? Will YOU be mine?”

That’s the ultimate question isn’t it? Will you be for or against Jesus? Will you allow yourself to be completely His? Or will you keep your life to yourself? Jesus has already given up everything to HAVE us. What is there to do but allow ourselves to be given to Him? The Blessed Mother is the perfect blueprint for this: “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord — I’M YOURS, GOD — Your gift! Be it done unto me according to Your word.”

Every baptized Christian — the entire Body of Christ together — is meant to be a total, free gift of love to the Fiery Heart of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.

But we can take this another step deeper! The Church is also God’s GIFT to us. We have been buried and raised in Christ by baptism. We live His life  now and so we receive ALL that is His!

This weekend, we have the honor and privilege of celebrating the Bicentennial of the Church of Richmond: God’s gift to us! Through the Church, we hear the Word of God proclaimed. Through the Church, we experience the grace of the Sacraments, above all the Holy Eucharist. Through the Church, we encounter Jesus Christ, alive and active down through the centuries.

Jesus’ response to Peter’s question now makes perfect sense: “Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”

The Church is an unbelievable gift — the hundred times more. It is the beginning of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth, and if we remain in the Church, we remain in Christ — and will surely inherit eternal life.

Yesterday morning, I and two of my brothers, Deacon Tom and Fr Julio, gave up everything. We emptied ourselves, face-first on the Cathedral’s marble floor. Yes, we forfeited our lives, but we also gained a priceless gift, the hundred-times more Jesus promised: We received the Church. 

You, the Body of Christ, are God’s precious gift to us — You are the brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers and children freely given to us. And as your ministers, we promise to fight and die for this Gift, which Jesus already gave everything up to save.

“We have given up everything and followed you, Lord. What will there be for us?”

In a word: Everything good, everything true, and everything beautiful. This promise is for all who dare to trust God. 

Give yourself to Him on this altar — Give Him your precious nothing. He is waiting to receive You, even as You receive Him.

By Fr. Anthony Ferguson

Fr. Anthony Ferguson is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. He is currently assigned at St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Roanoke, VA.

One reply on “Your Nothing is a Gift to Jesus – First Mass Homily”

Thank you, Father Anthony, for the gift of this homily and the enduring truth it proclaims. I will always see the Church He took such pains to establish as His love with us, Christ’s enduring precious gift of Himself to us continuing in and through His Church, and all of us in the Church, inflamed in love by the Spirit, as The Father’s gift to His Son and the gift of the triune God to all of us. Louis Federico and I Deborah send our joyous prayers if thanksgiving to God for your ministry.

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