Monday of the 19th Week in Course: St. Lawrence
One of the directions we deacons can give at the end of Holy Mass says “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” The idea is to go out from the Eucharistic celebration and bear fruit, bringing the Gospel to your friends and colleagues. That sounds wonderful, because the experience you have had of Our Lord Jesus Christ is too awesome to sit on and just enjoy. In Confirmation we are confirmed in our mission as prophet, priest and leader, and part of the prophetic gift is to witness to Jesus Christ, to be in your own person an extension of the life and work of Our Lord.
Here in St. John’s Gospel we see Jesus, right in the middle of Holy Week, days before His crucifixion, telling us what we have to do in order to assume and make effective that prophetic gift. We are like grains of wheat, called to grow and bear fruit for the kingdom of God, to make disciples who are like Jesus and Mary. But we cannot do that without imitating Christ, who died in order to bring us into union with Him, into His very life. We have to die to ourselves and live for Christ, and we have to do that every day until we hand over our life to Him, entrusting ourselves once more to His love forever. We have to despise all the pleasures and honors and power we have in our secular life so that we can link up with Christ’s life and mission. In heaven, then, when we succeed in becoming like Christ as His servants and siblings, the Father will give us honors beyond anything we could hope for.
What that means is for the rest of our lives we need to be ready to give, give, give for that purpose. We can’t hold anything back. When we do this, we can bear abundant fruit, although in life we may not always see the results. I’ll give you an example.
About a decade ago or so I began to archive all my homilies in a place called Sermon Central. It is mostly for evangelical preachers but I am one of a few Catholic clergy who post there. It’s a bit of a trouble to do this once or twice a week, and I’ve received only a handful of direct comments over the years. If this were the only reward, I would have stopped years ago. But I’m getting between a thousand and fifteen hundred views each week. That means over a million “hits” in the years I have performed this service. The biggest viewership is in the U.S., of course, but there are many viewing the homilies in India and the Philippines as well. I hope to meet people who were influenced in their faith positively by these efforts when I get to heaven. We never know how many people we influence, unless we just curl up in a ball and think that fulfills our commitment to Christ. It doesn’t.
Now we also just heard and proclaimed that the man/person who is blessed is gracious and lends to those in need. The psalm verse says he gives “lavishly” to the poor, and his “generosity endures forever.” So, as you might expect, this homily now turns to the “sermon on the amount.” Part of our giving is a generous sharing with the Church and with the poor, and these days there is a huge overlap between those two clients. Our tax people are disingenuous about the amount we give to places like St. Vincent de Paul and our parish. They call it “charity.” Not really. What we give for God’s work and the relief of the poor from hunger and homelessness is not charity as much as it is an act of justice. You think, “what do I owe the poor?” Let’s look to Jesus for an answer. At the final judgement, what will we be remembered? It’s whether we helped or turned our backs on the hungry, the homeless, the imprisoned, the naked and the stranger, or the 3rd world villager who has no clean water. So in a real sense we owe the needy our salvation as we do Christ and the Church.
At this join in history, when we are in the middle of an epidemic that has put a lot of people out of work, it is more important than usual that we practice sacrificial giving to both the ministries that serve the poor and the Church operations themselves. Our family lives, as many do, on pretty fixed incomes. The Church lives pretty much on fixed expenses, and I can tell you they didn’t drop much if any when the pandemic struck. But collections did. What you give is what you sow. If you throw out a handful of seed, don’t expect much back. If you continue to give ten percent or more of your income, God won’t be outdone in generosity. Besides, what do you have that ultimately isn’t a gift from our gracious Father in heaven? Certainly the sacraments! Certainly the assurance that if you keep your end of the covenant, God will keep His. Adjust the budget as much as you can so that the ministries to the poor and the life of the Church can continue for you and your families. And thus glorify the Lord by your life.