My Dear Parishioners:
Giving and receiving is the interplay of life. If we are to live a full life, we must be able to give of ourselves, of our time, of our talents, of our resources, for the sake of others. But we must also be able to receive blessings from God and the gifts of love from others. A full life then includes both giving and receiving. That much is clear.

But if someone were to ask which is more important, giving or receiving, how would you answer? I think most of us would fall back on the old maxim It is better to give than to receive. But the surprising thing is that Jesus has a distinct perspective. This becomes clear in today’s gospel, when he comes to the house of Martha and her sister, Mary. The two women represent two different dynamics. Martha is the giver. She is involved with giving of her time and talent to make sure that Jesus’ stay is welcoming and warm. Mary on the other hand is the receiver. She sits at the feet of Jesus and listens to his words. Now clearly, we need both sisters in our lives. But when the point is pressed with Jesus, he makes it clear that Mary has made the better choice. He says, “Mary has chosen the better part and it shall not be taken from her.” To put this in other words, Jesus is saying It is better to receive than to give.

Now what does he mean by this? He is certainly not encouraging us to be selfish, to sit around and wait for other people to serve us. We must always remain givers, willing to offer our time, our ability, and our love. But Jesus is telling us that giving is not enough in itself. We must also receive. In fact, receiving is the deepest part of life. Giving is about doing and accomplishing. Receiving is about mystery and thankfulness. Lovers know this truth. When you are deeply in love with another person you do not describe that relationship as something you have done or accomplished. Love is something that happens to you. Even our words indicate this. We talk about “falling in love.” The action is opening we, receiving what is offered. Now, of course, even in a loving relationship, both giving and receiving are necessary. But it is the receiving which is the deeper part, the one that leads to wonder and gratitude.

This is the reason that Jesus sides with Mary. He says that she has chosen the better part because receiving is more central. This is also the reason that we should be sure that we have space for receiving in our lives. You see, for most of us, our action of giving tends to drive out the receiving. We are so busy with our work, with our projects, with our goals that there is not that much time left over to receive, to let love in. Intimacy with our spouse is lost because there are so many things we have to do. Staying connected with friends is forgotten because it is easier to just surf the internet. Taking time to talk or to walk with our children seldom happens because we have to drive them to soccer, or sign them up for ballet, or get them to camp. We are surrounded with a world of wonderful beauty, but we do not know it. We do not take time to look or to listen or to pray. We fail to receive. And when our life becomes all about doing and giving, the deepest things in life become lost in the shuffle. Our life becomes more manic and shallower, and we lose that sense of mystery and thankfulness.

So, look at the week that is ahead of you and make sure that there are some spaces there for “Mary Time.” We need moments in which we can receive. Be available to have an honest talk with someone you love, or laugh with your children or grandchildren, or simply open yourself in an empty space and let the beauty in. Yes, I know, there is much work to be done and that it is important for you to give of yourself to your work and for your family. But it is also important to receive. And-if Jesus is to be trusted-receiving is the better part.

Fr. Monteleone

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