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This Christmas Focus on Receiving

Written by Ann Burns

December 15, 2022

When the Villains are Beautiful

Is it better to give or to receive? 

So stands the famed question of old that so often serves as the moral of many a children’s fable. But as I thought about this question during my Advent reflections, I found myself wondering: am I able to receive?  

You don’t have to ask me twice to go out and get Christmas presents for those around me — it is one of my favorite pastimes. And I like receiving a thoughtful gift as much as the next person, but I mean on a deeper, more fundamental level.  

Am I receptive?  

Christmas is the birth of Christ — the ultimate gift — Christ, the King who became a baby. The King who offers us His heart.  The King who hung on the cross. For you. For me.  

Am I willing to receive His gift? His love?

Being able to receive is so much deeper, humbling, and even riskier than the way we often think about during this time of year.  Because in true, holy receptivity, we recognize that we need to be open to the gift of Christ and the will of God. And in order to do so we must first loosen our grip on wanting to be in control. 

When our hands are clamped shut, we cannot receive what God is offering us. 

God gives us the graces we need to become saints.  He gives us the strength, the tools, the love — everything we need — to achieve salvation.  We are the ones who reject these gifts.  We are the ones who turn our backs to the gift of God and say, “thanks, but no thanks. I have other plans.”

And why not? Being open to the will of God is terrifying.  As a priest once reminded me, our sanctity is God’s business.  All we have to do is say “yes” to God. But that yes is often difficult to utter.  What does it encompass? 

I remember when my husband and I were going through marriage prep.  Our priest talked about how incredible the sacrament of matrimony is, “On your wedding day, you receive every grace necessary for everything you will go through in your marriage; God gives you everything you need.” 

But then he added, “It’s also a blessing that on your wedding day you receive this and are veiled from all the suffering and hardship you will endure because, truthfully, if any of us were privy to that, we’d back away.” 

Saying yes to God inevitably involves suffering. 

Two short years into marriage, I am by no means old enough to proffer sage like marital advice, but I can say that losing our baby shortly into our marriage was one of those hardships. And, one of the most terrific pains I have ever encountered. I never planned for that to happen. It was not on “my terms.” I wasn’t willing to receive that ache. 

But when we open ourselves up to being receptive, we open our hearts up to abundant goodness and profound suffering.  It’s not an either or.  

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Job 1:21 

Our Lady is a beautiful example of holy receptivity through her fiat.  In saying yes to God, she not only became the Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth,  but she also endured much suffering. From the moment of Christ’s conception to His death on the Cross, Mary’s life was not easy

When we think about “receiving”, we often think about stuff.  What we get and what we want; we see it through a lens of entitlement or according to “my terms.”  Yet, being receptive is not about entitlement, it’s about recognizing the things that we are given as unmerited gifts.  It’s embedded in gratitude, as well as a willingness to carry our crosses because we trust our Heavenly Father, knowing that ultimately, He wishes to give us our salvation. 

But are we a receptive people?

  Are we able and willing to radically receive the love God has to offer?  Are we willing to be receptive to His calling?  And are we able to say THY will be done as opposed to my will?

Or are we entitled? 

In order to give, we need to first be able to receive. We need to be able to receive the love of Christ and radically be open to the will of God.  And that can be nerve wracking. It goes against our ego. It means letting go of control and surrendering our wills.  

If I had gotten everything I wanted, my little daughter would not be here.  But as it stands, in losing Theo, I am blessed with two children: one in Heaven and the other one who is currently asleep in my arms. And through this, God has stretched out my heart for which I am so grateful.  Because, with an expanded heart, I can more readily receive His love and proceed to give and love with His love. 

So as we approach Christmas Day, I invite you to join me and work on our ability to receive. To first be receptive of the love God has to offer, and find Faith and confidence in that, and then proceed to being receptive of His Holy will.  

Only then, can we be truly generous. 

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