By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
One of the traditions I miss from Puerto Rico is the celebration of Three Kings Day. Every year, on the eve of January 6th, children fill shoe boxes with grass for the camels and then go to bed with great expectation, for the Three Wise Men will visit that night and leave presents behind. We continued that tradition with our children, but, since we lived in the United States, we had to come up with great stories to explain why the neighbors did not get presents on January 6th; my kids accepted the completely logical idea that camels were slower than Santa’s sleigh and only had time to stop by the houses of the Puerto Rican children who believed in them. They accepted it because it came from us, their parents, who they trust and love. And it was true… as long as they believed the Three Kings would come and visit them that night, they did.
In today’s Gospel (Mk 16:15-18) Jesus says that “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” But later He adds,
“These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
When I read that impressive list, my first thought is, “well, I guess I don’t really believe.” But then, as I ponder a little more, I challenge that thought. I remember the times that I did drive out demons in Jesus’ name. Like the time I was speaking with someone who was having a really bad day, and I witnessed despair leaving and hope settling in instead. I remember the times when my eyes have met the gaze of another, and a new language was spoken, one that went straight to the heart, without a sound being uttered. I remember the time when the “snake” was lurking inside my home; I learned all I could about internet safety and had some uncomfortable but necessary conversations with my children. I remember the time I was given a false teaching, like a deadly thing to drink, yet the truth was so clear in my mind that it did me no harm. And I can also remember the times when a touch, a hug, or just a pat on the shoulder healed a heart sick with loneliness and doubt. Seems like at least sometimes, I do believe. But what about the rest of the time? What about those times when I let fear and worry creep in?
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3). We need to return to the place where we trust, where we believe. Every time the world tells us we need to be afraid because things are scary and out of our control, we need to turn and hear the Word saying, “Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43:5), and believe that “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Phi 4:13). “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”” (Rom 8:14-15).
My children received gifts from the Three Kings because they were born into our family. It didn’t matter that they were living in a different land, they only had two requirements to fulfill: to be part of our family and to believe. God also has a gift for His children who believe. “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:16). Through Baptism we have become children of God. Let us help each other remember the truth when doubt creeps in. Let us believe so that God can work amazing signs through us – through our words, our eyes, our hands, our feet. Let us help each other believe.
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We are Ivonne J. Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.