There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them (1 Cor. 12:4).
God is the giver of all gifts, both of nature and of grace. St. Ignatius of Loyola – founder of the Jesuits – thought that the root of all sin was ingratitude. It is only his opinion, but worth consideration, for Adam and Eve wanted “to be like God” we are told. For some reason, they were not happy being human.
Gratitude is what makes people great. But to be grateful, we must first receive. We are offered three marvelous gifts: the gift of self, the gift of others and the gift of God.
Gift of Self
Thomas Merton wrote, “that the reason people don’t become saints is because they refuse to be themselves” (Seeds of Contemplation, 1955). We are called to be saints, but we are not called to be Mary of the Cross or St. Francis of Assisi. No, God “works in all sorts of ways in different people.” God wants “me” to be “me” and “you” to be “you.” God wants “me” to be Christ. He wants “you” to be Christ.
We have to receive our very selves – we have to receive exactly who we are and not try to be someone else. This is the task of parents, surely, but also educators. The task of receiving oneself is a lifelong goal and journey, especially when we run up against difficulties, failings, and sufferings. We receive ourselves and we can give thanks.
Gift of Others
St. Gregory the Great observed, “that people have gifts that we don’t have, but if we love them, these gifts become ours.” If ever there was a theology of the body, this is it. It is not easy to live this theology of complementarity, living as we are in a culture of competition, jealousy, and envy, exploited by modern means of communication. But if we can, then things change. Our relationships and marriages change; our places of work change; our parishes change. Our world changes. We receive others and we give thanks.
Gift of God
Receiving God is not easy either, because we live in a frenetic and noisy culture, but the promise holds good:
Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).
All it takes is a few moments to become silent and still. If we are prepared to make this small sacrifice, then we shall come to know and love God.
Silence and stillness is the pre-eminent condition for receiving God in the beauty of creation, in the truth of his Word and in the love of the Eucharist. We receive God and we give thanks.