March 9, 2018

Christ the Cornerstone

Lent, a time for giving without sadness, compulsion

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work”
(2 Cor 9:6–8).

Lent is a time for intense prayer, fasting and almsgiving (sharing with others, especially the poor).

We’ve heard the saying many times: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). And it’s true. When we are able to give “without sadness or compulsion,” we experience true joy.

Giving is transformational. The more generously we give, the better persons we become. And, paradoxically, the more we sacrifice, the more we receive in return and the better we feel.

God loves a cheerful giver because he loves to see us achieve our greatest potential as his children. God loves to see us grow in our love for him and for one another. God loves to see us become more Christ-like, more generous and self-sacrificing because he knows that this is what will bring us the most genuine satisfaction. True happiness is living generously for others. Profound sadness and dissatisfaction result when we live only for ourselves.

That’s why the greatest saints are also the most generous. The list is endless—St. Martin of Tours, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Theodora Guérin, St. Teresa of Calcutta and so many more. These are models of generosity and joy—what the New Testament calls “cheerful giving.”

We should not get the wrong idea. Cheerful giving doesn’t mean giving without pain or sacrifice. Giving of self, giving of time and talent, and giving of material things all cost us something. That’s what we mean by “sacrificial giving.” If a gift costs us nothing, there’s no merit in giving it away.

Gifts of substance, or sacrificial giving, are costly. They deprive us of something precious in spite of the fact that we deliberately share it with someone else.

How do we become cheerful givers? We need to practice and to watch little children. Sharing is not something kids do naturally. Parents teach their children to share with others. Often it’s not easy, but the more children learn to share with their sisters and brothers and their friends, the more fun they have. Selfish behavior (“This is my ball, and you can’t play with it”) leads to unhappy play times. But sharing makes play possible and enjoyable.

The same is true for adults. We can lock ourselves into gated communities and cling to what we have, or we can share with those who are less fortunate than we are. The choice is ours. But self-centered living is not the way to happiness or joy.

As St. Paul teaches, “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Cor 9:8). Having all we need means that we have the ability to share freely with others. And the amazing thing is that the more we give away, the more we receive back in the form of spiritual gifts that can truly make us happy.

Children reluctantly learn to share, and adults are sometimes worse. As we get older, we cling to things (especially money and material things) out of concern for status, comfort or security. Letting go can be very difficult, but, as the saints show us, it’s essential if we want to grow in holiness and to experience lasting joy.

God loves a cheerful giver, but gifts from everyone are welcome. Why? Because we all have to start somewhere, and when we give, the better we are and the better we feel.

Practice giving—even if it hurts. The more you give away, the more graces will return to you. And even if you start out as a reluctant giver, time and experience will transform you into a cheerful giver. If you don’t believe me, ask any truly generous person.

Generous stewardship of all God’s gifts (spiritual and material) should be a year-round activity, but the season of Lent gives us special opportunities to make “almsgiving” a priority in our lives. If we give without sadness or compulsion as grateful, generous stewards of all God’s gifts, before we know it, we’ll be cheerful givers who gladly share God’s abundant gifts with others—especially the poor.

May our Blessed Mother Mary and all the saints inspire us to make almsgiving (without sadness or compulsion) an important aspect of our Lenten observance. †

Local site Links: