Devotional Thought of the Day:
4 But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, 5 not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, 6 whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, 7 so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. 8 This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these points, that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others. Titus 3:4-8 (NAB)
317 What zeal men put into their earthly affairs! Dreaming of honors, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike. When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, then we’ll have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works.
As we get closer to November, I am receiving more and more programs geared to what people call “stewardship,” each with a promise to increase the giving of my congregation. Some might even market themselves as being “different.” That is, they aren’t just about money, but also about encouraging people to use their time and talents to benefit the church.
Some even talk about coming out and doing the program for you or sending audio and video. One recently indicated that since it was the focus of the worship services, you didn’t have to ask people to come to any other meetings. I usually don’t use “canned” studies or sermons, so these go pretty much unopened, unperused. The other reason is that I don’t agree with the goal, of increasing giving.as a primary focus of worship.
As I read the quote from St. Josemaria, I thought about this a little more, that we invest our zeal in so many things. It might be “our” football team. It might be a hobby, such as hiking or fishing or sewing and quilting. We relish the time we spend doing those things, and the people that do them with them are among those who we count as our closest friends. We might even zealously invest ourselves in those friends, apart from the things that bring us together – even church.
But what if we were as zealous about our relationship with God? What if we had that kind of attitude about spending time with Him? What if we pursued the means of grace – the scriptures, the sacraments, including prayer, because we treasured the precious peace, that reminder of His ever present love?
What if we understood these things Paul told Titus to be insistent about teaching the people of God entrusted to Him?
Paul indicated that this would result in Titus’s people (and therefore our people) devoting themselves to good works as well, works that are excellent and beneficial for others!
I think this is exactly what St. Josemaria was talking about as well – be zealous about the affairs of our souls, about trusting and depending on God in our lives, and then everything else ends up taking care of itself. And nothing will hinder apostolic/missional efforts, the needs of the ministry will be met, and more will follow.
This is, living by faith, by dependence on God. It takes a while to get used to, and a determination to preachChristt crucified, whether on the pulpits or in the streets. As it seems like crisis hit, there will be a temptation to go back to hyper-focusing on giving, but there will come a time where you realize God is at work, that He will provide, as the idols we fashion fall to the side – and our focus becomes the kind and generous love of God.
Deliver to them the message of Christ, give them the hope of sharing in His glory, and the rest… will care for itself. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 820-823). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional THought of the Day:
1 The LORD says, “Shout as loud as you can! Tell my people Israel about their sins! 2 They worship me every day, claiming that they are eager to know my ways and obey my laws. They say they want me to give them just laws and that they take pleasure in worshiping me.” 3 The people ask, “Why should we fast if the LORD never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?” The LORD says to them, “The truth is that at the same time you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers. 4 Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. Do you think this kind of fasting will make me listen to your prayers? 5 When you fast, you make yourselves suffer; you bow your heads low like a blade of grass and spread out sackcloth and ashes to lie on. Is that what you call fasting? Do you think I will be pleased with that? 6 “The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. 7 Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives. Isaiah 58:1-7 (TEV)
1 Our friends, we want you to know what God’s grace has accomplished in the churches in Macedonia. 2 They have been severely tested by the troubles they went through; but their joy was so great that they were extremely generous in their giving, even though they are very poor. 3 I can assure you that they gave as much as they could, and even more than they could. Of their own free will 4 they begged us and pleaded for the privilege of having a part in helping God’s people in Judea. 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 (TEV)
Two passages, two groups of people, both of whom “gave” to God.
Yet one is judged, harshly, the other is applauded.
It doesn’t matter if the gift is money, or time, whether it is setting aside your pride, or your needs. What matters a lot is our attitude, as seen in both of these passages. In the Old Testament reading, those who were giving seem to be giving in view of what they would get back. They would go without food, if God would give them what they wanted in return. THey kept fasting thinking if they could just do it enough, they would earn God’s favor. When they were disappointed – they took it out on those around them, and they saw their sacrifices as “suffering”. Rather than use what they would offer to God to help others, they abused and neglected them.
The Macedonians however, begged and peladed for the opportunity to help – they gave more than they had, And with great joy!
They worked to free the oppressed, they sacrificed that others could be free.
This isn’t a Old Testament versus New Testament issue, both the Corinthians and Phillippians had to be encouraged to be those who invested in others. Even today we struggle to give of ourselves, we have to guard against our own cynicism, our own judgmental nature and pride. ANd our own expectations. If we give, if we sacrifice, are we doing it because we are simply living like Christ, or are we expecting something? An answered prayer, a better home, anice position, or maybe even a better seat in heaven?
The only way I know of, to give freely, is to not look at the giving, but focusing on the one who gives to us.
To realize the extent of His love, of His sacriifice, not using His behavior as a law to be fulfilled, but being completely aware of how He looks at us, and letting His show us how He has sent us to be there for others, in His stead.
That’s were the Macedonians were at, that is where the people Isaiah prophesied to needed to be at….
To realize the attitude of Jesus, and to allow the Spirit to mold us into His likeness….ever while we adore the Lord who has come into our lives.
Lord have mercy on Us…. we cry… knowing that mercy is promised and given…