BEING A CHEERFUL GIVER
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 CORINTHIANS 9:6-10; JOHN 12:24-26]
As a deacon, one of the primary responsibilities of St Lawrence was to administer the Church’s possessions for the use of worship and for the poor. When he was ordered by the Roman authorities to hand over the riches of the Church, he gathered all the poor of Rome, the sick, the blind and the crippled, and presented them to the Romans saying, “These are the riches of the Church.” Truly, the responsorial psalm so aptly applies to him for it says, “Lavishly he gives to the poor, his generosity shall endure forever.”
St Lawrence made himself poor so that others might be rich in him. He took Jesus’ words to heart when Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.” More than just giving to the poor, his whole life was a gift to God and to the whole of humanity. Indeed, St Lawrence was a witness to God’s love to the poor but most of all, to Christ, for he gave his life to Jesus by being a martyr for him. He took the words of Jesus seriously that “anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.” For this reason, St Lawrence is truly a great saint, having been so identified with Christ in His sufferings. We can be certain that He would also be where His Master is, since Jesus promised that “If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.” He gave everything, his whole life to Jesus, his master. And he gave willingly and happily.
St Lawrence was a cheerful giver. So admirable and solid was his love for Christ that when he was being roasted on the grill alive, he, in his pain, could even tell his executioners, “You can turn me over now – I’m done on that side!” We remember the exhortation of St Paul when he also said something to that extent, “Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
What is the secret of his generosity? St Lawrence knew Christ intimately. He loved Him so much and thus he was able to see Christ in the poor. He knew that Christ who lives in us is hungry, thirsty, naked and sick in the poor. So when we refuse the poor, it is Christ whom we reject since He said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it unto me.” In the gospel, Jesus reminds us, “If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too.”
Today, we are called to follow St Lawrence in giving ourselves to others by dying to ourselves; many will benefit from our self-sacrifice. The call to die to ourselves so that others might live is in imitation of Christ. By His death, He has brought life to many. All of us are called according to our vocation in life, to live for others, for the poor includes all, the material and spiritual poor. It also includes those who are emotionally broken and those who lack love in their lives. But we must do so cheerfully, not grudgingly. We too can surely learn from St Lawrence because more often than not, even if we do give, we would give grudgingly and reluctantly, whether in kind or in service. Sometimes we do it more out of obligation than true love for the person in need.
In the light of St Lawrence’s martyrdom for the poor, St Paul reminds us that “Thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap.” We must begin to start giving in small ways now. We cannot die for Christ as a martyr if we cannot even die to our passions, desires, attachment and sins. But as we learn how to give, our hearts will grow. So if we do not know how to give, begin by giving small things and doing small works of mercy. In giving alms to the poor or in serving others, we will experience the joy of loving, which in turn will empower us to give ourselves more and more. But let us not just talk about giving; do something today by helping someone, especially one who is hungry and lonely.
If we find the call to empty ourselves for others rather daunting, we can find inspiration from St Paul’s assurance that God cannot be outdone in generosity. “There is no limit to the blessings which God can send you – he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works. As scripture says: He was free in almsgiving, and gave to the poor: his good deeds will never be forgotten.” We give Him material things of the earth; He gives us the eternal gifts of heaven, especially His mercy and forgiveness. We give Him our death, He gives us His Life. Yes, St Caesarius wrote, “give earthly mercy and you will receive the heavenly kind. The poor man asks of you, and you ask of God: the poor man for food, you for eternal life.”
Let us therefore not withhold anything from the Lord who wants us to serve Him, especially in the poor. The more we give, the more we will receive from Him. As St Paul wrote, “The one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide you with all the seed you want and make the harvest of your good deeds a larger one.” Indeed you will be surprised how the Lord helps you to overcome your insecurities and anxieties about the future and your material needs as you give them away.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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