As a deacon at St. Thomas More parish, I am occasionally privileged to deliver homilies to our students at school Masses. A lover of Scripture (and a fourth year Catholic Biblical School student, which I also love), I use these opportunities to remind them that we can summarize the Good News in just two words: “Jesus saves!”
The salvation Jesus offers is his greatest gift to us, showing the depth of God’s love.
Quoting John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life.” Did you notice that John says “gave”? That word is key to grasping God’s love for us and salvation. Jesus said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” and then he walked the talk. Do we walk our talk?
If the only life we knew was that of this world, we wouldn’t know how to make sense of suffering. Jesus showed us that God didn’t become man to eliminate suffering, but to transform it — we have to wait for Heaven for a life without suffering. But, now, do we seek to do what we can to transform the lives of those who are laden with suffering? A workshop I recently attended highlighted “The Five Expressions of Generosity.” They are: Hospitality, Service or Volunteering, Gifts, Emotional-Relational Support, and Monetary Giving.
Giving in all those forms is a critical element in a Christ-like, loving life. We are reminded by Jesus, who told us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Giving is a natural tie-in to Christmas, because the love God calls us to is a sacrificial love, a love where we focus on the other, not on ourselves. It is a love in which we focus on giving, not on receiving.
A disproportionate amount of monetary giving usually occurs in December, so I want to turn my focus to that aspect of generosity. St. Paul shows an interesting angle on gifting in Philippians 4:17: “It is not that I am eager for the gift; rather, I am eager for the profit that accrues to your account.” He must have been familiar with Jesus’ words in Luke 11:41: “But as to what is within, give alms and, behold, everything will be clean for you.”
Giving is found attached to another great promise, just a chapter later in Luke 12:33-34: “…[G]ive alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in Heaven.” Paul knew that, no matter how great our gifting might be, God has promised us never to be outdone in generosity (see Matthew 19:29). That’s pretty amazing, since God is the source of all we have.
We know that we are only saved by God’s grace, so what do these promises about almsgiving from Jesus mean? Revelations 14:13 tells us, “Let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.” So, indeed, our works will accompany us; they will count towards the “profit that accrues to our account.”
Second Corinthians 4:18 says: “For what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” It is most important that we live in a way that maximizes our eternal life experience. Jesus came, died, rose and ascended into Heaven — not so that we would achieve perfection in this life or obtain relief from all our sorrows now, but so that we may have eternal life! We will be eternally grateful if we manifest our faith in our living … and in our giving. St. John of God said: “Give alms, my brethren; give alms for the love of yourselves.”
Someday, in fact, may we look forward to hearing these words from Jesus (Matthew 25:34), which will be better than any Christmas gift we ever opened: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
The Catholic Foundation, which is legally separate from the Church, partners with donors to steward their gifts (end of life gifts, in particular) to parishes, schools, specific ministries, the archdiocese, and other non-profits. As CEO of The Catholic Foundation, Deacon Steve invites you to reach out to him and his team to discuss securing your legacy for beyond your lifetime.