If you are going to give, you’ve got to receive.
There were a couple of odd twists in last Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 6:7-13). Jesus sends out his disciples to preach, to give his Good News. But first he tells them how they are to receive. Wherever they go they are to accept the hospitality that offered them, simply and gracefully. In other words, they can’t expect people to receive from them, hear what they have to say, unless they are prepared to receive first.
Notice what they receive is different from what they give. The crucial point in appreciating what others is give me is to recognise that it is different from I have to offer. Often the complaint is made concerning a relationship, that the other is not giving like me. Yea, well, they don’t have to…because that is what ‘I’ am there to do…the other person has different things to offer, things that I cannot give.
For our relationships to flourish, especially those with adults, there has to be mutual giving and receiving. Sometimes it helps to do a stocktake, not so much on what we give, but on how we receive, what and how graciously.
Loving God, you delight in giving to us. Teach us how to receive, both from you and from those around us. May we learn how to receive graciously so that what we have to offer will be welcome. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
Images of Grace
I have been a nun for most of my adult life so I have mostly lived with women. Strange as it may seem, women are sometimes ‘narky’ and even difficult. At one stage in my life, I used to visit a community that had some ‘interesting’ members who would give their opinions in a free and forthright manner. A friend of mine was superior of that community and no matter how another person acted she always treated them well. A friendly, courteous, even gently humorous response would be given to words and actions that did not deserve them. I found her inspiring so one day I asked her about her behaviour. She told me that she had decided that no matter how another person acted, she would try to treat them with the respect due to a human being, and she would treat herself in the same way. She was no door mat for bad behaviour. It sometimes took great effort to do this. She had to prepare ‘good’ responses for expected bad behaviour and she had good friends to debrief with. The consequence was that she acted in a particularly graceful manner in difficult situations. She is one of my ‘pin-up nuns’.
We all know people like this- the ones who seem to be able to turn around difficult situations. They are ‘graces’ in our lives and, if it is possible, we should talk with them and ask them how they do it. It is not magic. They are wise people, who know how to access the grace of God that can transform the negative into something positive and life-giving.
Loving God, sometimes people are difficult – not only others but also us, even me. Send us your Spirit that we may gracefully turn our difficult situations and bad moods into something that gives life. We ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear us.
How to give a gift, especially to Mum.
Gifts can be tricky things. We all know stories of people giving gifts to spouses that really were something they themselves wanted. One husband finally stopped giving his wife power tools for her birthday, when she gave him a frilly nightdress for his! To truly give a gift, you need to understand what the person may truly want or need, you need to get ‘inside the skin’ as it were. Then such a gift goes straight to the heart.
We see this in the life of Jesus. One of the truly amazing things, I find, is that he lived our human life for 30 years before he began his preaching. Given that he came from God, you would have thought he would have come and just told us what to do. But no, he came experiencing all our stages of growth. By the time he began preaching he was a very mature age. When Jesus offers us guidance for life, we know he has been inside our skin.
Mother’s Day is coming soon and it is very easy for us to presume that we know what our mother would want – after all we have truly been inside her skin. We can presume too much. A good idea over the coming week would be to ponder on our mother is like and ask “What does she really want?” We may be surprised to realise that it is not so much presents as presence.
Loving God, your Son Jesus experienced what is was to have a human mother, to know growth as a human person. Send us your Spirit that we may live in awe at the mystery of every person, especially our mother. We ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
What’s your choice?
A woman died and wasn’t too sure as to whether she would be going to heaven or to hell. St Peter decided to give her a tour of the dining rooms in both places, as there was a little time before her judgment took place.
Into heaven’s dining room, he swept her and it was magnificent – the best food, OMG the wines, everything was extraordinary, except for one strange thing, the fork and spoons were over a metre long. Not wanting to show her ignorance and because St Peter was wanting to move on, she asked nothing.
Now she was swept into hell’s dining room and…it was exactly the same, right down to the strange cutlery. Now she couldn’t kept silent: “What the hell, or heaven for that matter, is going on? They are both the same!” “Ah!” said St Peter, “the places look both the same but the people are different. You see that cutlery that shows up people for what they are like. They are too long for a person to feed themselves (and they must use cutlery here). In heaven, the people feed each other, enjoy the banquet and each other’s company and love. In hell, they refuse to share, want to only feed themselves and so they starve in the midst of a feast. What is more they taunt and ridicule each other for their failure.”
“By the way, this is now your judgment. What’s your choice?”
Loving God, you desire all people to share in the fullness of your life and love. May we follow the example of Jesus and filled with your Spirit share with others the goodness you have given us. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris osb
In the movie “Play it Forward”, a young boy, Trevor, reverses the usual order on giving. When he gives to people he doesn’t want them to pay him back but rather to give his generosity ‘forward’ to three other people, who, in turn, are to give forward generously. The idea challenges our assumptions on generosity. Too often we have some type of account system going on in our heads when we give: “I did that for him last week, so now he should…”, “I gave her that for her birthday and she didn’t thank me properly…” and then “Do they deserve it?” Well, if they deserved it, it wouldn’t be generosity on our part but justice.
It can be a tough old world and Trevor’s idea hits a few bumps but ultimately it transforms people’s lives. Even though he is ‘only a kid’, and one from a difficult, poor situation, he leads a rich life. Each of us know people in our community who, giving freely of themselves, have open hearts and full lives. Even if they have no things to give, they share a kind word and a smile. They are often very cluey to what games other people may be playing but they don’t let that stop their generosity. And they are good to be with – of course they are, they are like God.
In this coming week, think about a few of these generous hearted people that you know and point them out to your children. Let them know how such people are esteemed and loved. They are amongst the best role models you can give them.
Loving God, your generosity surrounds us all our days. May your Spirit transform our hearts that we may give as Jesus did – from a full and generous heart. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
Sr Kym Harris
How to say ‘Thank You’
I read up a book drawn by its quirky title: Adulting: How to become an adult in 468 easy(ish) ways.* Even though I am out of the age range of the intended audience by about three decades, I thought I might learn some things. I did, like ‘How to write a Thank you note’. The formula went as follows:
1. Focus on the other person, i.e. begin ‘You…’
2. List great aspects of the present/action/gift for which you are thanking them.
3. End with the ‘Thank you…’
Notice how the ‘Thank you’ came at the end of the note, not the beginning. We need to actually revel in the good qualities of something before we can express thanks. Thanking too soon can cut short our chance to really appreciate what we have received but taking the time to linger in the enjoyment adds to our pleasure and the good feeling of the person receiving our note.
The same can apply to God. We all know that we ‘should’ be grateful but perhaps we have that sense of ‘should’ because we haven’t given ourselves the time to linger in enjoyment of the good things we have received. One of the integral parts of the Christian practice of Sunday was to take time to rest and enjoy. This is part of worship. No matter how energetic or committed we are, we need time to relax and take pleasure in just being. And when we have done this, we find that the words, ‘Thank you, God’ just finish off nicely that time of joy.
Loving God, slow me down some time so that I have some time to slow down and enjoy the good things that have come my way. Let me fill up on the pleasure of these people and things so that ‘Thank you” rises freely from my spirit.
*By Kelly Williams Brown. Sr Kym Harris osb
Recently, Frances Whiting in an article suggested that we take up writing love letters and she shared one that she had written. No, it wasn’t to her husband, children, Mum or even her younger self. It was to librarians. In it she thanks them for all the amazing things they had done in her life and in the lives of others. It was such a gracious generous letter.
It led me to pondering, who would I write to? Very quickly, the Road Team of Livingstone Shire came to mind. We had an intersection that I dreaded crossing. Every time we used it going to the pool we felt like we were risking our lives. Then the council put in lights. They have been in for nearly two years now and I still find myself saying a prayer for the crew that put them in. I told this to the Town Engineer (he is in our parish) and he seemed quite chuffed that their work had been consciously appreciated.
Noticing the good that others do, appreciating it and thanking them for it, even in an anonymous way makes a difference. It changes us and how we deal with people, how we deal with life. We become more gracious. When we see this good, it helps us do and be good. We enter into the circle of care that makes our world a welcoming place to live it. Even though we may not consciously think of God, we are acknowledging and welcoming the grace that is the basis of a happy life.
So who would you write to?
Loving God, help we to recognise the many people who create the goodness that surrounds my life. Give me a sense of gratitude for what they have done and when I have the opportunity let me express my thanks. I ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear me….and thank you for all the good you are doing in my life.
Sr Kym Harris osb
Give and it will be given to you.
‘What goes around, comes around, though not necessarily back from the same people.’ So said my brother and his wife after they had been through a particularly challenging period. They had gone bankrupt and were on the road with their family, taking work where it was available. At that time, they met with great kindness from the poor in the caravan parks of the east coast of Australia. Oh yes, there were challenging people there but they are not the ones they focused on. My brother and his wife also gave, and continue to do so for they know that giving generously and freely without thinking of return is what makes us into a community; it is also what makes us fully human.
Next Sunday’s Gospel is the particularly challenging text when Jesus tells us to love and to give without any thought of return. We are to be like God giving without any expectation of getting back what we have given. That is hard for us. We want to make sure ‘number 1’ is protected and not cheated. But to come to real happiness and peace, we need that revolution of the heart and soul that gives out instead of taking for oneself.
The amazing thing about living that way, is that we become alive to all the myriad ways in which we are already receiving from God and others. What we thought we were giving away, it only a generous gift that has already come our way. Instead of being solitary beings protecting ourselves and our things are all cost, we find we are part of the generous community of life.
Loving God, let me appreciate all that I have received from you and from others and then let me give generously with a light and happy heart. I ask this in Jesus’ name, confident that you will hear me.
Sr Kym Harris osb