CHAPLAIN AND CAMPUS MINISTRY OFFICE
Virtue of the Month of December
“You received without pay, give without pay.” (Mt. 10:8)
Today in the sprawling slums of Kibera (Nairobi, Kenya), Jesuits from Chicago Province run a high school. What is different about this school is that all students are HIV/AIDS affected. This means that in order to be admitted the student must have lost one (or both) of his/her parents to HIV/AIDS and the surviving parent must also be afflicted with the disease. The name of the school is St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School for AIDS Orphans.
This apostolate with these AIDS orphans has become the “greater need” and thus, the “more” generous response to God’s call to them at this point.
I. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT GENEROSITY?
GIVE TO THOSE IN NEED
God commanded the Israelites to be generous and merciful to each other. Because they were delivered from Egypt, and therefore recipients of God’s generosity, they were to show impartial generosity to each other.
“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit”. (Leviticus 25:35-37)
The need of others should not be used to be capitalized on for personal gain.
GENEROSITY BEGETS GENEROSITY
In Proverbs 11:23, it says,” Be generous, and you will be prosperous. Help others and you will be helped.” This is the secret of greater abundance in life.
St. Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians underscores this by saying, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work”. (2 Cor.9:6-8)
From here we learn that giving should not be a burden. God’s ultimate desire is that we would give happily. He doesn’t want us to have to give out of obligation or coercion. He wants to bless his children. Not so that we can live in complete comfort and luxury, but so that we can be even more generous—abounding in every good work. Generosity inspires gratitude, and gratitude inspires generosity. God is generous to us and our generosity, as St. Paul tells us, gives proof of our gratitude (2 Cor. 9:11).
INVEST IN FUTURE TREASURE
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. (Matthew 19:21)
“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward”. (Matthew 10:42) The beauty in these passages is found in Jesus’ promise that as we invest our resources in God’s Kingdom, our heart will also be pulled in that direction.
GIVE OUT OF LOVE
And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” This poor woman so loved the Lord that she gave “all that she had.” True generosity doesn’t come from our excess; it comes from sacrificial heart.
II. CATHOLIC TEACHING ON GENEROSITY
Generosity is the virtue of being unattached to material possessions, often symbolized by the giving of gifts. The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit form in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.” (CCC,#1832).
Opposite to Generosity is Avarice (means insatiable greed for riches): The Tenth Commandment forbids avarice arising from a passion for riches and their attendant power (CCC, #2552). Of course, food and shelter is critical for our survival and in that sense, making money is a good thing. It’s actually more than just a good thing since part of the dignity of man is to work. Work honors the Creator (CCC, #2427). At this point, money provides opportunities for recreation, travel or other experiences that translate to happiness. Even this use of money is appropriate since our happiness is part of God’s plan for us all. What is important is that we need not be attached to it. It is given to us, not only to help ourselves, but to help others in need, too. “The Lord grieves over the rich, because they find their consolation in the abundance of goods. (Lk 6:24). CCC, #2556 says, “Detachment from riches is necessary for entering the Kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” (Mt 5:3)
For St. Ignatius, Generosity is always “relational”. It is viewed in the light of our personal loving relationship with God. It is based not on “quantity” but on “quality”. It is not all about giving ourselves to more activities (e.g. more retreats, more parish works, etc) but it’s about the quality of our interior disposition and attitude – like being more humble, more honest and truthful, more open and adaptable, more daring and courageous, more detached, more trusting, more hope. In short, more Christ-like! This is “Magis” (More). It is Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (“For the greater glory of God”).
Generosity is the virtue of being unattached to material possessions, often symbolized by the giving of gifts. It refers to the virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly.
For Christians, to be generous is to be conformed not just to Christ but also to the loving divine Parent God, whose sacrificial self-gift into the world makes possible human fellowship in the divine life; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). For Paul, this love is exemplified by Christ who, “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor” (2 Corinth. 8.9).
In sum, Generosity is about so much more than doling out money or material goods; it’s primarily an attitude and a way of being.
III. WAYS TO GROW IN THE PRACTICE OF GENEROSITY
Some ways to grow in this virtue:
- Donate your time: Many charitable organizations survive through the efforts of volunteers. Make use of your skills to enrich others.
- Watch your tongue: Be more appreciative and thankful on the giftedness of others rather than be a “downer” or make negative comments.
- Reach out to someone who is lonely: We don’t always know who is lonely, but we can be kind to strangers, offer a smile or a helping hand when we’re out and about, and regularly call relatives and friends who live alone or are going through hard times.
- Give alms to the needy cheerfully: Give the best stuff that you have. Giving something we actually like might hurt a little, but it can help us grow. It also honors the dignity of the person we are giving it to.
- Give a little more than you think you can: If you’re going to donate a coat, throw in a scarf, too. If you want to buy a homeless person a cup of coffee, add a sandwich. If you challenge yourself to stretch just a bit more out of your comfort zone, you will grow in your generosity.
PRAYER FOR GENEROSITY
by St. Ignatius
teach me to be generous,
teach me to serve you as you deserve to be served;
to give without counting the cost;
to fight without fear of being wounded;
to work without seeking rest;
And to spend myself without expecting any reward, but the knowledge that I am doing your most holy will. Amen!