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Receiving (It's a Virtue)

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By Marc Massery (Oct 13, 2017)
We hear so often about the virtue of giving, but according to the readings for the 28th Sunday in ordinary time, we must also learn the virtue of receiving.

In the first reading from the book of Isaiah, Scripture says, "The LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines ... he will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face" (Is 25:6-8). God promises to provide us with everything we need and more. The Gospel reading, though, tells us that we might miss out on God's blessings if we do not know how to recognize and receive them.

In the Gospel, Christ tells a parable about a king who has a wedding feast for his son. He sends his servants to notify the guests that it is time to come to the celebration, but the guests refuse to go. The king sends out his servants once again to bring them to the feast. Still, they refuse. Some of the invited guests completely ignore the invitation. One says that he is too busy looking after his farm to attend. Still, another is too busy selling his merchandise. The remaining guests go so far as to put the servant-messengers to death. In retribution, the king sends out his troops to execute the murderers.

Like the king in the parable, God invites us to a wedding feast at the Kingdom of Heaven. And like the invited guests in the parable, we can lose out on the blessings that God desires to give us if we place good — albeit less important — matters above Him. The men in the parable who excused themselves from the feast in order to tend to their work were not doing anything intrinsically wrong. They missed out on the feast simply because they got caught up with the busyness of life.

In the end, the king's mercy and generosity prevail. He sends his servants out into the streets to invite the uninvited, "the bad and good alike" (Matt 22:10). These last have no reason to expect an invitation — they have no connection to the king and his son. But they know a blessing when they see it, and they humbly accept the king's offer with joy.

In the second reading from the Philippians, St. Paul talks about this virtue of knowing how to receive good things from God. Paul says that he knows the secret of how to live well in "humble circumstances ... [and] with abundance. Of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need" (Phil 4:12). Most agree that living righteously while in need requires a certain virtue. But Paul puts the grace of knowing how to live in abundance on the same level as the grace of knowing how to live in need. Living in abundance is, therefore, not a sin. In fact, God may be offering us a chance to live in abundance that we could be missing out on if we are not prepared to receive His blessings.

In the second part of the Gospel reading, Christ tells a parable to explain that receiving grace is not a one-time event. We must continually respond to His invitations of grace.

At the wedding feast of the king, one guest shows up without wearing the customary wedding garment. The king asks him why he did not dress properly. The guest does not have an excuse, so the king kicks him out. Christ finishes this parable by saying, "Many are invited, but few are chosen" (Matt 22:14).

When we accept the gift of grace, we have a responsibility to take care of it. This guest accepted the initial call to grace (the invitation to the wedding), but he did not prepare himself in the right way to continue to receive it. If after receiving God's grace we go on living as we did before, we will lose out on the blessings He has in store for us.

When we live each moment of our lives in response to God's grace, the Lord will give us rest, refresh our souls, guide us down the right paths, and sustain us with courage (see Ps 23:1-6). God will overflow our lives with blessings if we strive to do His will and pay attention to the promptings of His grace. In the end, we can only give graciously to one another after we receive God's graces for ourselves.

See the readings for the 28th Sunday in ordinary time.

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