11th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, June 15
2 Cor 8:1-9 / Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus gives generously to us; Macedonia 's poor gave as Jesus did.
A government agent was traveling through the Tennessee mountains during the depression era. He was making allotments to poor farmers for seed, stock, and needed improvements.One day the agent came upon a woman who lived alone in a dirt-floor cabin. Tar paper covered the cabin's broken windows. The agent said to the woman, "If the government allotted you $200, what would you do with it?" The woman thought for a minute and said, "I reckon I would give it to the poor." Such was the spirit of the poor people of Macedonia.
Do we focus on our own needs so exclusively that we cannot see the greater need of others? "Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost . . .except to know that I am doing your will." Loyola
Between the two main parts of the letter, there are two chapters inserted, which deal with a collection for Jerusalem. These letters are models for charity sermons and begging letters. Paul did not start by describing the need and precarious situation of the mother church. It would have hurt. The Jewish converts were usually dislodged, dispossessed, disinherited. The church was poor. All the money went to the temple. The church of Jerusalem was still rather nationalistic. Salvation is from the Jews. The Bible is their book. And after all Jesus was a Jew. There was the great danger of a split. They did not see that the church was catholic, that is universal. This "sharing of our affections" would cement the connection between the mother and the daughter churches. You see how delicate he was when he calls it a "sharing in our affections”, passing on the blessings of God, a thanksgiving to God, a liturgical sacrifice. Equally delicate and at the same time prudent he was, in seeing to it that representatives of the churches brought the gifts of their churches to Jerusalem. Some of his adversaries watched with an eagle eye. Paul was aware that "priest and money" was a touchy issue. Much confidence can be destroyed when priests talk money and live above the average standard of the people they work for or have no heart for the poor.
Paul tells us today that churches that are better off must help those that are poorer. Here he applies this when he asks the Church of Corinth, a church of pagan origin, to help the impoverished poorer church of Jerusalem.
Jesus concludes part of his Sermon on the Mount with the words “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” A goal not easy to attain! Our love must go out to everyone; it must include even enemies and must imitate God’s love, who lets his sun shine on good and bad alike.
In the sermon of the mount, this is the highest peak: Jesus speaks of love. Love means wanting the best for everybody. Goodwill towards every human being. Not only to my relatives and friends, not only towards the neighbors and acquaintances, not only towards the members of my caste or community, but goodwill towards all is the essence of Christian love. As a test of the sincerity of my goodwill towards all, is the love I have for my enemies. Do I want their best? If I love only those who are close to me and those of whom I expect a return, that is not Christian love. Even the pagans love those. The love and goodwill for all ca only have when we get the inspiration for our love from God. God lets his sun shine for every being and sends his rainfall for the good and the bad. The love of God is universal. His goodwill has no limit. Only then love be constant if God is the inspiration and motive of love.
Father in heaven, God of love, in your Son Jesus Christ you have shown us your tenderness and accepted us, sinful people, as your sons and daughters. Share your heart with us, make us merciful and understanding people, that we may learn from the way you have treated us to accept everyone without conditions, to forget and forgive all hurts, so that we can become more like you. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen