July 29th Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Receiving with grace
They tell of one good Longford lady whose generosity was legendary. Somebody decided to try and do something nice for her in gratitude but she was having none of it. The frustrated giver then exclaimed in probably the most Irish sentence ever: “Mary Ann you’re a fierce woman to give- but you’re a horrid mane (sic) receiver.” It sounds better with a Midlands accent, especially pronouncing “mean” as “mane”… The people impressed by the signs Jesus gave receive through his hands their most basic of needs- food.
I don’t know about you, but it is easier to give than to receive, be it kindness or money. But it’s hard to receive love, to receive forgiveness, to receive help, even to receiving food. And yet sometimes when we are open to it, we can be very touched and warmed at the experience of receiving. I realise some harassed parent or grandparent faced with seemingly endless demands on them by family is possibly snorting at this with “nobody gives to me- I’m always the one.” But it is possible that we don’t give off the signals of being open to receive- is it not? So whatever it is that happens in our life, be it a loss of control that we have to ask for help. It can be in a hospital and we have to receive the most intimate care from complete strangers and we’re finding it really hard. Anything that makes us feel like we’re losing our independence is tough. These can actually be moments of grace, when we let go of the control and feel our real needs come to the fore. That very poverty of ours can help us to receive and be fed and led to fullness. Sometimes when a person asks “is there anything you need” – saying “no” is almost like shutting a door in their face. Letting them give and you receive brings you into a relationship with each other.
I think in Western cultures we so much emphasise our independence and individuality that it gets way out of proportion – we hate the idea of dependence somehow, and yet in all honesty, we need each other, we are totally interdependent – It’s not really about you or your needs, it’s about something much bigger. Our ancestors put it better “ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.” (we live in each other’s shadow.) At times we are called to receive with grace- it is a beautiful thing to allow an opportunity to someone who wants to give. It blesses both the giver and receiver.