As Catholics we hear quite a bit about the love of God. We are reminded…
‘God loves a cheerful giver’
This verse from 2 Corinthians has been on my mind lately as I have been contemplating the concept and practice of generosity. A fruit of the Holy Spirit, a generous nature is achieved when one is doing the will of God and living a life of virtue. It is one of the indicators that we are walking the path of holiness.
Being generous requires a lot of effort and practice. It means we give of ourselves in all things and think of others before ourselves. It means giving even and especially when expecting nothing in return. Generosity is born of love. And generosity beautifully opens the heart to gratitude.
These may be simple concepts, but they’re not always easy to put into practice. Sin closes our hearts to generosity. It makes us look inward, guard our piggy banks, give a scowl instead of a smile, snap at a loved one instead of offering a two-armed hug. But when we are generous, when we put aside our pride, our hurt, our stinginess — when we put aside sin — we only reap rewards. That’s what is so delightful about generosity — its oxymoronic nature. Though we are giving, to paraphrase the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, we really are receiving.
Proverbs puts it this way: “One person is lavish yet grows still richer; another is too sparing, yet is the poorer” (Prv 11:24). And St. Paul tells the people of Corinth: “Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6). To the world we might be at a deficit, but in the eyes of God, we are rich.
Speaking to a crowd of young people at a priestly ordination in Korea in 1984, Pope St. John Paul II, who loved the youth, told them that they must live their lives “fully and with a purpose,” and gave them the road map. It’s just as pertinent today, no matter one’s age.
“You must live for God, you must live for others. And no one can live this life for you,” he said. “The future is yours, full of perils and possibilities, hope and anguish, suffering and happiness. But the future is above all a call and a challenge to ‘keep’ your life by giving it up, by ‘losing’ it — as the Gospel has reminded us — by sharing it through loving service of others. And the measure of your success will be the measure of your generosity.”
What a beautiful sentiment.
During daily Mass last November, Pope Francis said that miracles are possible by practicing generosity — even generosity in little things. This means small acts of kindness and giving; unexpected displays of love in everyday life. This week, I am going to be praying that God will grant me a more generous heart. Want to join me? For while we might think we are losing, we really have everything to gain.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at Our Sunday Visitor.