Jesus Is Generous

September 27, 2015: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Numbers 11:25-29
Psalms 19:8, 10, 12-14
James 5:1-6
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
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Jesus is generous.

The slightest (or mightiest) good deed done for Him or for His Kingdom will not go unrewarded — even if it’s only giving a glass of water to someone who is thirsty.

Our King lavishes His blessings on everyone who lets Him; we, as His followers, ought to do the same.

Unfortunately, many times we, like the Apostle John in this passage, are less generous than our Lord, and concern ourselves with hoarding the grace of God. Sometimes we refuse to give freely to others what we have freely received from God (cf. Matthew 10:8). Other times we envy the good that others are doing, as if it somehow it detracted from the good we are doing or made us look bad. But it is not for us to limit the range of divine benevolence by our pettiness. Rather, it is for us to extend it, to encourage whatever good is being done anywhere, whether or not we get the credit.

This exchange between St John and Jesus seems like a small one, but it actually gives us a glimpse into the very heart of God.

God is pure goodness, pure generosity.

There is no evil, no selfishness, not even the slightest smidgeon of miserliness or envy in the heart of God.

In the Middle Ages, the philosophers had a phrase that expressed this: bonum diffusivum est sui. This phrase means that goodness naturally spreads itself to others. Think of the sun and the stars. It is their nature to shine, to spread light and warmth; that’s just what they do. It is similar with God.

It is His nature to shine with goodness, to spread goodness; He is always surrounding us with signs of His love, always wanting to fill our hearts with wisdom, grace, mercy, and virtue.

This generosity is evident in the Gospels, but it is also evident in the lives of the saints.

Venerable Solanus Casey is a curious example. Solanus was born in Wisconsin (USA) in 1870 and died in Detroit, Michigan, in 1957. He came from a farming family, but his pioneering spirit led him to travel around the wild west, taking on various jobs before finally discerning his call to the priesthood. One of those jobs brought him into contact with Jim and Cole Younger, two famous gunfighters who worked for Jesse James and his gang. Solanus’ kindness so impressed the outlaws that Cole Younger gave him a present of a clothing trunk, which the future priest brought with him to seminary. Solanus was not a good student in the seminary — he failed enough classes, in fact, that he was invited to leave. But he succeeded on a second try, when he joined the Capuchin Franciscans in Detroit.

He was ordained in 1904, though his academic performance was so poor that it disqualified him from hearing confessions and of giving formal sermons. So Solanus spent his nearly fifty years as a priest working as the doorkeeper (porter) in various Capuchin parishes from Harlem to Detroit. He would welcome the poor and the homeless, as well as the affluent — whoever came to the parish in need. Soon he also gained a reputation as a healer, and started attracting Protestants and Jews as well as Catholics. As his reputation spread, people came to him by the thousands, looking for comfort, advice, and healing. The growing demands of his ministry simply wore him out. Often, after a grueling day of counseling, he would fall asleep on the floor of his office or in the church, or be found at two or three in the morning trying to wind down by playing his fiddle in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Venerable Solanus Casey had major human limitations, but he was so filled with grace that his life became a roaring waterfall spreading God’s goodness.

God’s generosity will be the source of a lot of surprises on Judgment Day.

When we think of that day, either the particular judgment, when each one of us will come face to face with our Creator after our death, or the general judgment at the end of history, when everlasting justice will finally be established, we tend to focus on the negative.

In other words, we tend to think of God pulling out a list of our sins, shortcomings, and stubborn selfish actions.

And it is true, in the light of Christ’s gaze, we will see more clearly than ever those terrible things.

But in today’s Gospel, Jesus points out that the Judgment will also have another part to it.

He says that even if someone gives just a glass of water to a thirsty neighbor in Christ’s name, he will not lose his reward — think about what that means. Every act of forgiveness, every donation to a worthy cause, every penny put in the collection basket, every piece of clothing given to the poor, every kind letter or visit paid to someone who was sick, in prison, or alone, every prayer offered up for those in need, every word of comfort, instruction, and guidance, every single action that we perform in our Christian efforts to love God and neighbor is noticed, remembered, and delighted in by our Lord Jesus Christ.

And He is storing up rewards for them all in heaven.

This too is part of the judgment, a manifestation of God’s generosity.

It is a generosity that He will exercise powerfully right now in this Mass, by giving us not just good gifts, but His very self, in Holy Communion.

When He does, let’s thank Him from the bottom of our hearts, and ask Him to teach us how to be generous too.

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