Recently, a little girl came into the confessional while no one was waiting their turn and handed me a stuffed doll that looked like Jesus. She quickly put out her request asking me to bless her “Jesus doll.” I told her I had never seen a Jesus doll, and took the 15-inch stuffed figure into my hands and said a prayer over the fabric character that did, in fact, resemble the figure we recognize as Christ.
The doll wasn’t new, and one could easily see that it was important to my visitor and was well cuddled by her. I asked her if she had Jesus with her always, especially at night when she goes to sleep. She said she did with a big smile. And I thought, she must really sleep well imagining Jesus in her arms, and she in His. Before I returned the doll to its rightful owner, I gave it a little hug and passed the Jesus doll back to the little outstretched arms of my young visitor.
After she left, I looked up at the picture behind me of Jesus hugging the devastated sinner in the painting titled Forgiven. Always drawn to the tight grip Jesus had on the person in the painting, I couldn’t help but think of how often He holds us, embracing us with a “holy hug.” This may sound strange, but shouldn’t our faith make us want to reach out and give Jesus a hug in return? Whether we are “huggers” or not, imagine what that embrace would be like?
Embracing Christ is a fact of our discipleship and our call to follow, imitate, act in His name and so much more. Embracing Christ because He embraces us is an act of gratitude — therefore, as you may have already guessed, it is an act of stewardship.
What we decide to do with our time, talent and treasure is a way of embracing Christ with the gifts He has given to all of us. How often do we receive a gift and then respond by embracing the giver with our gratitude, either with a physical hug, words of appreciation, a handshake or any gesture that says “thank you?” How often do we thank our Lord for what we have?
The Church’s mission is to encourage others to live holy Christian lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. Embracing Christ with my life seems to be an appropriate response, considering He has embraced us with His. To be a faithful steward means that I am “hugging” Christ, and He is hugging me. Embracing the one who embraces us with a “holy hug” should be second nature to us. With arms outstretched, He stands ready to embrace us for any number of reasons, the first being His love for us. The second is perhaps in response to our love for Him in living faithful stewardship. How do we show it? How do we embrace Him? I still believe it is done by what we decide to do with all He has given us. To practice the stewardship way of life is to embrace Christ with our time, talent and treasure. Can we think of a better reason of what we should do with them?
Believe me, finding myself in the confessional with a Jesus doll isn’t an everyday occurrence. However, being embraced by Christ is. What better place to remember with gratitude that Jesus loves us first and embraces us first? It is so important to give back, from our natural need to give. Maybe our young disciples know this better than those of us who are not so young anymore.
So, maybe it is the young who will remind us how important a “holy hug” is in the lives of all believers. Let’s not forget to return the embrace with grateful hearts. After all, who deserves a hug more than the Christ who embraces us every step of the way, especially during those times when we need it most?