Part of this season is about giving, making a difference in the lives of those in need, or the community in general. I was driving to work today and came across a busy intersection at which were cones set up and people walking up and down the street taking donations for a cause. I was heartened by the fact that these people actually took time out of a free day to do something good that would benefit other people, people that they may not even know. This is one small example of how a meriad of people give of their time for the good of others or the community in general.
Advent is about making known the presence of God to others. Its about incarnating the presence of God. It’s about God with skin. Experiencing the presence of God through our prayer is good indeed, but sometimes we need God with skin. We need the touch and comfort of another. And we are called to be that for others.
“Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
Make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!”
(See Isaiah 35: 1-10)
We are, each of us, a Word of God spoken in time with a mission, a purpose. How can you make a difference in someone’s life today?
“They make contributions out of their surplus, but she from her want has given what she could not afford – every penny she had to live on.” (See Luke 21: 1-4)
When I give something, do I place expectations on my giving? If I give something to a friend, do I expect something in return? If I give my time, do I expect it returned? Or do I give, only when I FEEL like giving?
Or, when I give, do I give completely, even when it’s inconvenient, expecting nothing in return?
If I examine my own life, sometimes it’s about expectations and convenience and not about freely giving. At other times, I give freely of what I have.
One thing is clear. I am most happy, most content, when my giving is free, no strings attached. It is in those moments when my heart feels a quiet contentment and knows the care of a loving God who promises that I will be given all that I need, . . . if I just let go. Even when it comes to love, when I cling, life becomes cloudy and difficult. When I let go, life becomes a richer experience.
“Here is your money which I hid for safekeeping. I was afraid of you because you are a hard man.” (See Luke 19: 11-28)
Again we are reminded: how are we using the gifts that we have been given, the gift that we are as persons? Are we taking risks, reaching out and being of service to others with what we have to offer? Or are we afraid of getting out there? Or, maybe we think we don’t have all that much to offer and what difference would it make anyway? Maybe what we have to give is small. But small things put together become big things. A few cents in my pocket isn’t a lot, but when I throw it in a bin, over time these small amounts add up to something much bigger.
As we head into the end of another year, maybe it would be a good time to pause and take stock. How well have we used our gifts for the good of others this past year? Have we given what we have to give? And how have we seen it multiply? Whenever we give, it WILL multiply!
Matthew 25: 14-30
We all have something to give to make this world a better place. We just need to give it, no matter how small we think it is. Sometimes those who think they have little to give end up burying their gifts. But if we give what little we think we have, we will find it affecting others and multiplying. We just need to put ourselves out there a little bit and we will begin to see things happening. I can think of no better feeling than knowing that something I have given has had a positive effect on someone. It then becomes like a ripple effect of good.
What do you have to give? It doesn’t need to be much. The important thing is that it is giving. And in the giving, we will see it growing.
Matthew 20: 1-16a
When I read this passage I think to myself, “you’ve got to be kidding!” Here we have God described as a landowner who gives the same wage to those who have been working all day in the hot sun and those who have only been working one hour. No fair I would say if I was one of those workers who had been working all day! But such a response would emanate from the ego mind, which is about comparing, hoarding and wanting.
When it comes to enlightenment, peace and inner joy what one of us would be jealous of one who experienced these things? Even if we’ve been at this quest for years, why would we be jealous if someone experienced what we have? The enlightened mind does not work this way, only ego. The youngest novice at this can teach us something.
Divine generosity is here exposed as lavish and certainly not fair to our standards. However, when I have been the one who has made a major mistake, when I have hurt someone or screwed up my life in some way, believe me, I would stand very grateful if such generosity was given to me. So it all depends on our perspective.
If God is said to be so generous in forgiveness, am I the same toward others? How abundant is my sense of giving and forgiving? I am to reflect the same abundance that my Source exhibits, lavishly giving – like Francis of Assisi who prayed that he be more concerned with consoling, understanding and loving than being consoled, understood or loved. . . . I have a ways to go to be honest. Perhaps I would do well to daily return to this prayer attributed to this great Saint, as a reminder of the attitude that I need not be concerned with ego wants, but Divine generosity.
Luke 6: 27-38
“Give and it shall be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together.”
The spiritual path is all about giving, becoming generous people who have a sense of God’s care and Life’s abundance. Knowing that God is abundantly giving, we increasingly become less concerned with holding on to things because we know we will be taken care of. When we let go and give of our time, our money or our talents it is amazing what happens. It’s not so much a sense of expecting repayment, but life begins to blossom within us in new and varied ways.
This is the kicker though. We are told to be generous, giving people, even to those who have hurt us, to those we don‘t like! “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you.” This sounds so poetic and wonderful, . . . until I begin to think of a specific person who has hurt me deeply. When I think of him and then read this everything in me says: “You have GOT to be kidding!” But this is the key to healing deep hurts. Doing good to those who have hurt us. Thinking well of them instead of holding them in contempt. In 12 Step programs they recommend the following action in order to get rid of a resentment: pray for the person everyday for two weeks. AND, they recommend that we not only pray for them, but pray that THEY have all the happiness and blessings that WE would want! Sounds absurd, but when we are able to do this, then we will find ourselves to be truly free people! When we do good to this person, it shows great strength and power, for we stop allowing the hurt or the person to affect our day or the person that we want to be!
It reminds me of my Mom who used to always say: “Kill em with kindness!”
Hmm, maybe Mom was right!
Am I growing in the knowledge that God will take care if I but let go and share what I have and what is within me, even to my “enemies?” Give what you have and what is within you, and watch what happens!