Saturday, August 2, 2014

August 3, 2014: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Click to hear Audio Homily
The other day as I was driving past the Powerball billboard I noticed that the jackpot was up to $70 million. Many of us say, “If I won the lottery, then I would…fill in the blank.” So my question to you is, if you won the lottery, would you treat everyone here in the church to dinner? You may say, “Yeah, why not!”  Would you say such gesture is generous? What does is it mean to be generous? It is showing a readiness to give more of something, such as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected. Is it considered generous when we give away something that we won’t really miss? Is it considered generous when reaching out to others doesn’t cause us much inconvenience? Somehow we know that being generous involves sacrifice and forgetting ourselves.

Let’s see if Jesus was generous in today’s gospel.  In today’s passage, Jesus learned that his cousin, John, had been murdered and he sought out a place for peace and quiet to grieve. He and the apostles crossed to the far side of the lake, but when he stepped out of the boat he found a throng of people waiting for him. He could have gotten angry and sent them away, but instead he had compassion on them and gave himself completely to their needs. He saw the hunger in their bellies as well as their hearts. Not only did Jesus feed them, but he saw to it that each person got as much as he wanted, and yet, there were twelve full baskets left over.

In the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus showed us how to be generous. Being generous is not always about giving money or items to persons or organizations. More often, being generous is about giving of ourselves -- of our time, and or our gifts -- which is difficult. Before giving himself as food and drink in the Eucharist, Jesus gave of himself in so many ways. Once we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, Jesus himself inspires in us to be generous as he was. But we may say to ourselves, “I don’t have time to give… What if the person doesn’t appreciate me? What if I am kind and am not acknowledged for my gesture?”

Fr. Marc Foley, OCD, a carmelite priest, shared the following insight based on the life of St. Therese of Lisieux: What allows us to live in a sane state of mind is not looking at our choices for a reward. By focusing on what God is asking us to do, while not being concerned with the results of our actions, we will free ourselves from much worry and heartache. 

As T.S. Eliot said,  “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” Put in another way,  if the goal is the trying, then we meet our goal in the trying. By letting go of the desire that our efforts will bear fruit, we let go of what was not in our control. Often times we cannot make others accept what we say or do. The more we expect people to appreciate our efforts, the more we make ourselves vulnerable to feeling hurt. We will less likely get hurt by the ingratitude of others if we do not attach strings to our charity. When we have inwardly decided to give freely, before we are asked, the feeling that something is being taken from us disappears because we have already made a choice to give it away.

St. Paul gives us a great advice, “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.” What do we have to lose in being generous and kind to others? We certainly will not lose the love that Jesus has for us even when others are not grateful or worse,  accuse us of ulterior motives. Also God reminds us through Isaiah, that He himself is the reward for all of our efforts. Let’s not forget that everything we do, we don’t do it for our own conception of what success should be. Whether we fail or succeed, we make the effort all for God.