Once there was a very good and loving woman who was quite active in her church and community, and constantly involved in volunteer activities and projects. She was always busy, and whenever anyone needed help of some sort, she was quick to respond. One morning the woman awakened with a very strong sense that she was overlooking something important; she was convinced God was asking something of her, but for the life of her she couldn’t figure out what it was. “Let’s see,” she thought. “This morning I’m going to take old Mrs. Smith to her doctor’s appointment, and while in the waiting room I’ll work on the article I said I’d write for the prayer group’s monthly newsletter. Then when I get home I’ll be baking cookies for the neighborhood block club meeting. I promised I’d help sort clothing for a few hours this afternoon for the parish clothing drive, and then after I’ve made dinner for my family, I’m going to call people to get more volunteers for the church festival. Then I have two meetings tonight: one to help plan the annual Red Cross Blood Drive, and the other to organize the letter writing campaign for Right to Life. What could I possibly be missing?” As it happened, the woman actually had a few minutes before she was scheduled to do anything, so she sat down to pray—and, remarkably, was able to quiet herself down enough to be aware of God’s presence. She asked, “Lord, what is it You’re asking of me? What am I forgetting? What else do you want me to do?” After a few moments of silence, the Lord’s answer came to her: “My child, I don’t want you to do anything; no, I want to give you something” (Emphasis, July-August 1992, p. 30).
This is how it is with God. Sometimes we’re too busy to remember Him—even when we’re busy with things done in His Name. However, He’s never too busy to keep on loving us and giving us His gifts. He wants us to continue growing in wisdom, grace, and peace, and He’ll do everything He can to help this occur. Our God is a God Who gives blessings—and one of the ways we serve Him is by gratefully accepting His gifts.
The greatest thing we can do for God is to take the time to listen to Him, and to make room for Him in our lives. In the Book of Genesis (18:1-10), the Lord God Himself, accompanied by two angels, came to visit Abraham— though the identity of the three visitors was not immediately revealed. Abraham acted according to the ancient code of hospitality, in which guests were to be honored and cared for in every way possible. God allowed Himself to be waited upon; He sat there patiently while Abraham hurried off to tend to all the details of hospitality. However, the key to the story is right at the end. After Abraham returned and served his guests, God made a promise to him: his wife Sarah, already well past the age for bearing children, would in a year’s time have a son. This, to Abraham’s way of thinking, was the best thing that could happen; he would have an heir, someone to carry on his name. God allows us to serve Him, but in so doing, He seeks to bless us. This is part of the wisdom described in the Letter to the Colossians (1:24-28); we are to be made whole and complete in Christ by receiving His gifts. In the Gospel of Luke (10:38-42), Mary understood this truth more fully than did her sister Martha. Mary wanted to receive Jesus’ words; Martha was too busy trying to be the perfect hostess and ensure everything was just right for her honored Guest to take the time to listen to His words. There was probably an element of pride on her part, as if to say, “Look, Lord, at all these wonderful things I’m doing for You.” God wants us to be humble enough to admit that He can do infinitely more for us than we can do for Him.
In 1830 the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Catherine Laboure, a French nun given the important mission of arranging for and promoting what later became known as the Miraculous Medal. The medal shows an image of Our Lady wearing many rings, from some of which flow great blessings for humanity. No graces flow from the other rings, however, and when St. Catherine asked about this, the Blessed Mother explained that these empty rings represent the heavenly graces or gifts from God that can’t be bestowed simply because people are unwilling to receive them. A gift is not truly a gift unless it’s accepted by the intended recipient. In the same way, God’s blessings really aren’t blessings unless our hearts are open to receiving them. We must choose to accept all that the Lord has in store for us. This means, above all, trying to spend some time with Him on a regular basis. We’ve seen how Abraham, and Martha and Mary, showed hospitality to the Lord; we for our part are called to show “spiritual hospitality” to God—by opening our hearts to Him and letting ourselves be filled with His grace.
If, like the woman who was constantly busy with countless charitable activities, we were to ask the Lord, “What is it You want me to do?,” He might say, “My child, I want to give you something. If you come here to Mass with genuine openness, rather than in a grudging way, I will give you blessings and graces for the week to come. If you look at the people around you with genuine sympathy and concern, seeking My presence in them, I will show you a depth and a goodness in them that you would otherwise not have discovered. If you look at your responsibilities in life as a means of growing in grace, rather than as merely chores to be endured, I will help you discover true peace and satisfaction in fulfilling them. If you trust in Me whenever you have problems or worries, I will see you through—and even turn them into blessings. If you make the effort to spend time with Me each day, even if only a few minutes, I will give your life a purpose and a peacefulness that cannot be obtained in any other way.”
This is what God might say to us, for it’s His nature to give of Himself—and nothing pleases Him more than our willingness to accept His gifts. God doesn’t ask us to prepare a feast for Him, as did Abraham, and Martha, but to show Him hospitality by opening our hearts and receiving His blessings. If we try to do this, we can be sure that He in turn will prepare an eternal banquet for us.