CALLED TO LIVE GENEROUSLY
The common theme of today’s readings is the work God gives us to do as the followers of Jesus: work of hospitality, generosity, commitment and charity.
In our first reading we learn the following lessons: We must be ready at all times to offer help to those in need especially when we have been blessed by God with the means to do so. We need to stop calculated charities, that is, charities that are aimed at gaining reciprocal favours or charities that are intentioned to be investments and hence, we keep looking out for the returns. The woman of rank in the first reading offered help to Elisha, not knowing he was a man of God, and even went to the extent of making the stranger (Elisha) a part of her family. Sometimes we may feel overwhelmed by the demands people make us on and we may even feel exploited, nevertheless, our duty is simply to obey God and continue being generous regardless, while the outcome of our generosity is absolutely God’s prerogative.
Nonetheless, generosity is the business of each and every one of us, and not the prerogative of the wealthy alone. We are all called to give generously especially of our time, talents, resources and ourselves. Knowing full well God always rewards a generous heart should further encourage us in living for others, because we cannot outdo God in showing love and mercy. Just as Elisha promised the woman, "This time next year you will be carrying a baby son," And the promise was fulfilled by God; God will also outdo you this week in generousity and favour. Whatever forms of charity you undertake this week and always, God will meet you at the point of your deepest needs. Amen!
Who is first place in our lives? Who or what takes first place in your life - in your daily thoughts, cares, and concerns? God has put us first in his thought, care, and concern for our well-being and future. God loved us first and our love for him is a response to his exceeding kindness and mercy towards us. Even while we were hopelessly adrift through our own sinful pride, rebellion and unbelief, he choose to give us his own beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for our sake - to set us free from slavery to sin, Satan, and death.
Jesus says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me…." These words may sound a bit extreme, since family comes first to most of us. However, what Jesus means is that all loyalties must give place to loyalty to God. Nothing must take the place of God in our lives; not family, not friends, not relationships, not work, not career etc.
There can be another meaning too. All those who become followers of Jesus belong to a new family. It is a family where every single person, including relatives, friends and even strangers are truly my brothers and sisters. We become part of a larger family to whom we also have responsibilities. Jesus means that there will be times when we will have to give more love and compassion to the hungry, the sick, those in prison, the social outcasts, the unemployed or the unemployable, the handicapped, the lonely than to members of our own family. In other words, Jesus is not speaking against the family, but rather reminding us that we are part of a larger family of our fellow Christians.
Experience has shown and wisdom has been proven right that the niceties of this world cannot give us lasting joy and happiness. Another reason why Jesus says, we should love Him more than anything else. All the wealth in the world cannot buy us happiness, good health, or even eternal life. Are there not persons who are exceptionally wealthy and are still lost in the maze of depression and sorrow, to the point of contemplating suicide? Have we not experienced heart breaks from our most cherished friends? Have we not been disappointed in a job we so highly believed would bring lasting happiness in the lives of our family and friends? How many times have we learnt the unfortunate lesson that those who put their trust in man made things are always miserable in the end, while those who put their trust in the Lord will always renew their strength and shall be like mount Zion that can never be shaken but stands forever. They will run and never stumble.
The love of God compels us to choose who or what will be first in our lives. To place any relationship or anything else above God is a form of idolatry. If we allow the many different things and distractions in the world to take control of our lives and possess us - such as greed and lust for power, possessions, and wealth, we invariably blur our vision of God and become unable to carry out His will for us. Only the love of God love can set us free to love as he loves - with mercy, kindness, goodness, patience, perseverance, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The first and great commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37). If we pursue the love of God and put his kingdom first in our lives, then he will give us everything we need to sustain us now and in the future as well. Who is the Lord and Master of you life?
True love for God compels us to express charity (merciful deeds of kindness and goodness) towards our neighbors who are also loved by God because he created each of them in his image and likeness. Mother Theresa of Calcutta once told a marvelous story about a destitute family who had nothing to eat for days. When news of their impoverished condition came to the Missionary Sisters of Charity, Mother Theresa personally went to their home and brought them some food supplies. The mother of the family immediately divided the food in half and carried it off. When she returned, Mother Theresa asked her, “Where did you go?” She gave the simple answer, “To my neighbors, they are hungry also!” Mother Theresa said, “I was not surprised that she gave - poor people are really very generous. I was surprised that she knew they were hungry. As a rule, when we are suffering, we are so focused on ourselves, we have no time for others.”
Jesus declared that any kindness shown and any help given to the people of Christ will not lose its reward (Matthew 10:42). Jesus never refused to give to anyone in need who asked for his help. As his disciples we are called to be kind and generous as he is. Jesus sets before us the one goal in life that is worth any sacrifice and that goal is union with God - uniting our heart, mind, and will with his heart and will for our lives. The reward of a life given over to God and obeying his voice is God himself - the source of true peace and joy that lasts forever. Does the love of Jesus Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (2 Corinthians 5:14)?
Be ready to take up your cross and lose your life for Christ: In ancient Palestine, the cross had a terrible meaning. It was a vicious way of executing people, and it was reserved only for those who were not Roman citizens. Only the worst criminals were crucified. The people there who heard Jesus' call for taking up ones cross in order to follow him must have been horrified. Yet that is what Christ wants from his disciples. The main paradox of the Christian life is that we lose in order to find it and we die in order to rise again. ("Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."). We live in a world where "finding their lives" is the paramount ambition of the majority of people. But Jesus tells us very clearly that this should not be our main concern. What he asks of us is that we should “lose this life" which means that we must stop living for ourselves alone. We must forget our own security and work toward the security of others. We must forget to take our own health a bit less seriously in order to care for those who are sick and hungry.
The basis of all hospitality is that we all belong to God’s family, and that every person is our brother or sister. Materialism and consumerism dominate our lives and turn our homes into isolated fortresses with iron gates, intruder alarms and surveillance cameras. Society believes in competition, power, influence and success. Jesus’ argument is that when we work hard to ensure that everyone has enough, there will be enough for us too.
The smallest gift to the littlest disciple brings a certain reward. Just as God knows and cares about every hair of our heads, so also He knows about our generous acts in behalf of the faithful. Such gifts are counted as gifts to Jesus -- and gifts to Jesus are counted as gifts to the Father. Another bit of good news is that, as we are engaged in the Lord's work, those who help us are also promised a reward. That is true whether we are clergy or lay people, preachers or janitors.
Prayer – Lord God we become fully alive through the generous giving of ourselves. Give us a generous heart to give of ourselves, our time, our talents and our resources always, especially to the least of the little ones. May we never grow weary of giving to the cause of justice and right especially to those who cannot repay us and May we never grow weary of doing what is right. Amen!!!