Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Epiphany: Jesus teaches us to receive

I know, I know. The headline is all backwards. We all know that Oprah or Hallmark or - who was it? - said "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Yet if we are to avoid a kind of giving that is destructive, that tells others that they are perennially helpless and that puts our egos on a throne that only God should occupy, we have to receive, too. St. Paul expressed this well when he wrote, "When I am weak, then I am strong - that's when the power of Christ rests on me."

Jesus must be our model for receiving:

"For every Saint is led toward the likeness of this Man, insofar as he copies the life of his Savior. For what is disagreement with His commands and works but recession far from his likeness?"

St. Gregory the Great, Homilies on the Prophet Ezekiel I.2.19, Theodosia Tomkinson trans.

In what likeness do I see Christ at Epiphany?

  • + I see him as the infant, simply receiving the gifts from his visitors - and I perceive his coming message that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who become childlike, ready to receive his blessings.

  • + I see him at the River Jordan, receiving a baptism he doesn't really need and receiving the loving praise of his heavenly Father for showing such humility.

  • + I see him at the wedding party in Cana, receiving deference from his mother and cooperation from the caterers - and making his first miracle nothing more than prolonging a party at which he is just another good time guest.

I don't mean to be flip in any of this. I am wrestling with my own "recession from his likeness." Simply put, I am uncomfortable being on the receiving end of anything good.

I'm not going to inflict a silly psychodrama on you here, but you can probably fill in the blanks - too afraid of losing whatever gift is given, too insecure to let another be strong, too cynical not to watch for strings attached, all that kind of stuff.

So I look at Jesus - as he appears in this particular season of the church year - and I see an aspect of him that I've avoided or even rejected. He receives.

And when I see him receive, I see his perfect peace. He doesn't demand anything - the Wise Men's gifts, the baptism at the Jordan, the voice of praise - he doesn't even seek credit for turning the water into wine (and good wine at that). He just "is" and he graciously receives what is offered.

And I see his perfect love. His grace is so great that he steps down and lets others take the higher place. He receives that they might be blessed in their giving. His receiving is just a higher form of giving, after all.

May I grow in my Savior's peace and love by learning to receive the gifts others bring.

No comments: