The question Saint Paul asks the Corinthians in today’s first reading is a challenging one: what do you have that you have not received? For us in a society steeped in entitlement, this question rings like an accusation.
We may be justly proud of what we have learned and achieved and accomplished, because in attaining those things, we have used our gifts to their potential. However, as Christians, we must never be overly inflated with pride in those things because we must always remember that we achieved them because God gave us the ability and the opportunity. What do we have that we have not received? What have we learned that God has not revealed? What have we accomplished that God has not blessed?
Very early in my priesthood, I was somewhat embarrassed when people would tell me how much a homily had touched them or how moved they were by the way I celebrated Mass. I was very conscious of the fact that nothing I had done was done without God’s grace. A brother priest told me he responded to those things by saying “praise God!” because that acknowledged that it was accomplished with God’s grace.
Maybe that’s a good lesson for all of us. When we are complimented for something we’ve done or accomplished, we may well be proud of it. But we may also well be grateful for all God has done in us to bring us to that point. In our gratitude and love for God, maybe we can all respond to those compliments, “praise God!”