Wednesday June 20, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Corinthians 9:6-11) Gospel (St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)
In the readings today, we see two aspects of the same basic point; it has to do, once again, with charity. In the first reading, Saint Paul tells the Corinthians: "He who sows sparingly, will reap sparingly; but he who sows bountifully, will reap bountifully." Our Lord told us that the measure with which we measure is going to be used to measure back. The amount we give is going to be given back - but with abundance - because God is always far more generous than we ever will be. So if we are willing to give, God will give all the more.
We are talking not just about finances and money, but we are talking about everything. That is why Jesus talks not only about giving alms, but he also talks about prayer and fasting. It is about giving of ourselves. We have to realize that God has provided us with many things. He has given all of us a variety of talents, gifts, and abilities so we can give to others. They are there to be able to support ourselves and our families, but they are also there to be put at the service of others. That is what the Mystical Body is all about: All of us working together toward the same goal, helping one another. The things that one person can do, another is unable to; and we help one another that way. So we need to be willing to be generous, to give of what God has given to us. That does include the finances. It is an interesting thing that in all the various surveys done, one of the things they have found is that Catholics throughout America are actually the wealthiest of all the groups and give the least amount of money to the Church. That is something, perhaps, that we need to think about a little bit. Are we giving to God as He has given to us?
But we need to look far beyond the finances. We need to ask ourselves, "Am I praying the way I should? Am I putting God first? Am I sowing bountifully? Am I really putting aside the time or is my prayer stingy? Do I just do the absolute minimum that I think I can get by with? Or am I really being generous with the Lord? How about the fasting? Am I giving to God? Am I taking on penance? Am I offering my suffering to the Lord? Am I being generous in the struggles God has sent to me? Am I giving them back? Am I making something good of the difficulties in my life? More than that, am I willfully taking on various penances so that good can come, not only for my own soul but for other people?" Think about people in your family, think about friends, think about people in the workplace who need prayer and conversion; that is something that all of us can do. We can offer certain things for these people. We can pray for them. We can be generous in the way we give of ourselves for the sake of others. That is what the Lord is asking from all of us.
At the same time, it is not to be noticed and it is not to be doing it so somebody will see you are doing it. As Jesus tells us, if we do that we are already repaid. We do not have to wait for God to be bountiful because we have already gotten what we were looking for - somebody's attention. We are not doing it to get attention, rather we are doing it for the good of another. Therefore, it is kept quiet. That is why Our Lord tells us, "Do not blow your trumpet before you." Do not try to be noticed; rather just live a quiet life, but a generous life. That is what He is asking. We are not to be looking for attention, trying to be noticed, or doing anything for the self; but rather, we are to give and spend the self for the good of others in a way that is truly for the good of others. For God and for neighbor, those are the two greatest commandments. So, it is not to try and puff up the self, it is not for prideful reasons; if that is why we are doing anything, we have already gotten our reward. But it is giving so that it is God alone who knows what we are doing. Other people are not necessarily noticing it, but we are just simply giving of ourselves.
What the Lord is asking, as Saint Paul points out, is that we would "sow bountifully." When we give to others, as Saint Paul says, "In every way your liberality is enriched, but through us it becomes a thanks offering given to God." When you do an act of kindness for other people, they can give thanks to God. It is not merely an act of charity on our part, but actually, it becomes an act of gratitude on the part of the other. So, once again, our generosity is shared with others and they can give thanks to God, as well. That is what the Lord is asking from us: that we would give generously and then trust Him because God will never be outdone in generosity. If we are generous with our time and our ability, God will repay us. That is not the reason why we are doing it, though, it is not to see if we can get more; but rather, it is knowing that God is going to be more generous than we could ever be. If we are willing to be charitable with others, we are opening our hearts to receive more love from God, Who will give to us more generously than we will give to anyone else.
Note: Father Altier does not write his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.