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Being Ready to Take

June 7, 2015 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

June 7, 2015
Gospel: Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
Fr. George Smiga

The verbs are very important in today’s gospel, because they not only tell us what Jesus did at the Last Supper, they describe the way that God always deals with us. The gospel says that Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and told them to take it. Of these verbs two are most important: Jesus gave and told his disciples to take. These two verbs succinctly describe the dynamic of our relationship with God.

In that dynamic God is always the giver. Now it is true that we can give some things to God. We can give God our service and our love. But our giving is always overshadowed by God’s giving, because God’s giving is greater and more fundamental. God gives us life, family, intelligence, health, and (in a way that is very appropriate at today’s Feast of Corpus Christi) God gives us God’s very self. When it comes to giving, we cannot compete with God. Therefore, the second verb is the important action for us: the verb to take. If God is the giver, we must be the takers. If God overwhelms us with so many blessings, we must be willing to receive them.

Here is where our relationship with God can be short-circuited. It is possible for us to come into God’s presence and not be ready to receive. In 1972 Henri Nouwen wrote an important spiritual book that describes this dynamic between God and us. The title of that book is With Open Hands.  Nouwen says that we must approach God with open hands because only when our hands are open are we able to take what God offers us. Nouwen suggests that often we come into God’s presence without open hands. We come with clenched fists. And when our fists are clenched, we cannot receive, we cannot take what God is giving us. We clench our fists because we are afraid. We fear  that God will not respond to us with mercy and love. We clench our fists because we feel that we are unworthy, embarrassed by the mistakes we have made and the people we have hurt. We clench our fists because we want to be the givers and refuse to submit ourselves to God’s control. We clench our fists and become unable to receive. We walk away empty.

Therefore, the most important thing we can do today or any day is to open our hands to receive what God gives. We must not be afraid to let God enter our space and see us as the people that we are. We must not be afraid to let God see our disappointment, our failures, even our hatred. We must set aside all fear and pretense and open ourselves, so that our fists can relax and open to take what God offers.

Today on the Feast of Corpus Christi, as we come to communion, let us see our open hands to be the sign of our relationship with God. Clenched fists will not do. Jesus wishes to give us his very self. So let us open our hands and open our hearts to receive him.

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