November 7, 2021
For very uneducated people over the centuries, the Catholic Church has tried to make it easy for people by creating prayers to pray, rules to obey to keep us all on the right path to God, Jesus, to Mary, and all the saints.
The effort to simplify and to be helpful does have a possible by-product of creating fears in our relationship with God, a sense of guilt if we do not perform to the Church’s expectation, and sometimes, an impersonal relationship with God, and sometimes, a minimalistic mentality of just following the rules.
As we end our present liturgical year, our sacred scriptures, chosen for us to hear, emphasize some of the most important aspects of Jesus’ faith and teaching — and what he wants to nurture in our souls.
Last week, it was love for God and love for neighbor — not as a set of rules, but rather as a living, soul-opening-wide approach to everything in life.
Today, it’s about motivation. Do I do what I do to please God? What motivates my gratefulness and generosity? A fear? My need for praise, to be recognized, to enlarge my ego?
It is not the amount or the generation of activity or service, Jesus reminds us. It is about my heart, my personal integrity, my personal selfless motivation. How can the pennies of a poor widow be greater and more powerful than the surplus wealth of a rich man?
While the traditions, rules and regulations of religion can be helpful, they are only helpful in so far as they transform our personal faith and living into more selfless practices in our prayer lives, in our acts of charity, and in the undoing of injustices.
The Church is very grateful for the monetary support to its pastoral ministries, the building of its worship and community buildings. It relies upon $1,000 donations and 25 cent donations. To love God and our neighbors overflows in many manifestations of our hearts. Only the love of God in our own life and our grateful instincts that flow from our hearts impel us to the simple and generous awareness of a poor woman who gave the last she had and the rich person who did not give what he could.
If we are going to put money into the treasury as the gospel observes, let it truly come from our hearts. We are not called to be misers or to be opulent, but we are called to be generous and selfless.
Because we may be very blessed financially, does not mean that we hoard it. Rather, Jesus invites to share and invest and offer opportunity to those who have only pennies.
Whether you have more than pennies or whether you are penniless, the art of seeing God in each other and the air of generous sharing is Jesus’ encouragement for us today.
For everything in life and our motivation to work is more than making money and building our own kingdom. “I do what I do to honor and thank God.”
Jesus encourages us to personalize our love, to personalize our work. We are more than objects, and a peg in a cog.
Elijah did not treat the widow in our first reading as a peg in a cog. The Lord God said “the jar will not go empty.” Seeing as God sees, reaching out as God reaches out, the jar of our awareness and sacrificial love will not run out.
At the end of our life, when Jesus comes to take us home, the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that he is not going to “take away our sins as he did that already when he suffered and died for us, “but he will bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.” (Hebrews 9:28)
Have you heard of “the law of the gift?” It is an insight into the spiritual life described by St. John Paul II. It can be articulated as follows:
“Your being increases in the measure that you give it away.”
“Being more” is not about more money, success, power, or influence. The more you give from the heart, the more that you share of yourself and your blessings, the more you are what a true human being is.