The readings for the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord concern receptivity to God’s gifts. Isaiah’s words invite the thirsty to “come to the water” and promise those who listen that they “shall delight in rich fare.” (Isaiah 55:1—2)
Isaiah reminds us that God is a God who is constantly offering us good gifts. The “rich fare” of God is not only the plenty of nourishing food that a good community provides for all, but also the deeper food of love that God endlessly offers. Yet we might ask ourselves: Are we receptive to the love that God is constantly pouring out?Sometimes I can be tempted to pay attention to what is missing in my own life instead of appreciating God’s bounty. Yet love is a plentiful offering. Jesus is receptive of God’s love in allowing himself to be baptized by John, although John says he is not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals (Mark 1:7—11). Jesus shows us that before we can undertake our own ministries of care, we need to allow the sun of God’s loving rays to shine upon us so that we can reflect back some of that light to others.
How do we practice receptivity? Here are some concrete practices that may be helpful. All involve some degree of surrender to God’s action over our own.
1. Rest in silence. Silencing our own interior voices in prayer allows God’s voice within to rise to the surface. Or there may be an even deeper experience of relationship beyond words, an underlying unity of self, God, and others.
2. Be attentive to everyday acts of love. All around us, people act in loving and generous ways. Perhaps my spouse tries to connect by sharing about his day: am I open to listening attentively? Or I may see two students who greet and warmly embrace one another—even if I do not know them, witnessing their mutual care is a gift.
3. Let go and surrender to loving here and now. Often, we want to give and to receive love in ways of our own choosing, but if we are open to change, we make room for love to flow. Perhaps today my teenager doesn’t want to engage in small talk, but meanwhile I can practice kindness to a stranger in need.
4. Give away love without expectation of return. Paradoxically, the more we give away ourselves, the more room there is for God to enter in. St. Clare described the soul as a mirror that reflects divine love. St. Catherine wrote of it as like an empty jug that must stay near the fountain of love. Both images remind us that it’s in emptiness that we find fullness, and in letting go that we can both receive and give.