8th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, May 24
Ecclesiasticus 35:1-12 / Mark 10:28-31
The just man's sacrifice is most pleasing: It will never be forgotten.
A new ministry is arising among shut-ins and retired people.It's called the Prison Pen Pal Program. Charles Colson, the former Nixon aide who was imprisoned in the Watergate scandal, refers to it in his book Loving God. There he describes an elderly woman in a Georgia nursing home. Even though writing a letter is a task for her, she keeps up a steady flow of correspondence with 14 prison inmates. All of them, she says, are young men who need grand-mothering and the wisdom of a grandmother's years.
The sacrifice this elderly woman makes to carry on her ministry is great, but the good she does is far greater. God will not forget it, and her reward in heaven will be great.
What "creative" sacrifice are we making— or are we willing to make—to help others? "The only gift is a portion of yourself."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Honour the Lord with generosity... Add a smiling face to all your gifts” says the first reading. The advice of Ben Sirach is for honest persons to thank God by offering sacrifices, but God will not accept sacrifices from dishonest people, for he accepts no bribes.
What about those who give up everything for the sake of the kingdom of heaven? They will not only “inherit heaven” but find happiness on earth in the freedom from worries about losing material goods and the inner freedom of belonging to all, in the joy of winning many brothers and sisters in the community. And curiously enough but realistically, Mark adds that they will retain their happiness and reward even in the contradictions and persecutions they encounter in their endeavours for the kingdom. One must remain free and poor within oneself.
When it comes to giving, many profound things can be said about it.
For example, "No one has ever become poor by giving" (Anne Frank); "Happiness doesn't result from what we get but from what we give" (Ben Carson); "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give" (?) and many more profound reflections.
Even the 1st reading has something to say about giving: Honour the Lord with generosity, do not stint the first fruits you bring. Add a smiling face to all your gifts, and be cheerful as you dedicate your tithes.
That's where we get statements like "be a cheerful giver", whether giving to God or giving to others.
So it seems that even in giving, we are urged to be cheerful and to be generous, and to encourage us further, we are told that we will be rewarded, and the 1st reading would even say that the Lord will reward a cheerful and generous giver seven times over.
So giving can be challenging enough to our human tendency, because we are more likely to be calculative and to look for what we can gain from what we give.
Even in the gospel, Peter asked Jesus what is there for him and the rest who have left everything to follow Jesus.
Yes, the act of cheerful and generous giving can be difficult. Yet, the 1st reading reminds us to give to the Most High as He has given to us, generously as our means can afford. May we come to see what the Lord God has given to us. And may we also come to see that the purpose of our life is to give it away, cheerfully and generously.