Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER."


Homily for August 10th, 2016. 2 Cor. (9:6-10) [Lectionary No.618]

          “God loves a cheerful giver,” Paul writes in today’s first reading. Paul wrote his letters in Greek. And the Greek word which Paul uses for cheerful is hilarios. That’s where we get our English word “hilarious.” If we wanted to translate Paul’s words literally, therefore, we would say: “God loves a hilarious giver.” Why? Because that is how God gives: not sparingly, not grudgingly, “without sadness or compulsion” (as Paul writes in that first reading), but with overflowing joy.

“There is more happiness in giving than in giving than in receiving,” Jesus says (Acts 20:35). Those words, incidentally, are the only saying of Jesus that is preserved outside the gospels. Paul speaks them to representatives of the Christian community at Ephesus, telling them to remember a saying that they were already familiar with from the oral teaching of Paul and other apostles. The New Testament did not yet exist: it hadn’t been written. But already the Church was teaching the faith, and telling people what Jesus had said and done. That is the answer to people who say they have a religion of “the Bible only.” The Church’s faith is older than the Bible – older, at least, than the New Testament.

People who have never experienced the joy of giving that Jesus speaks about are poor, no matter how large their bank accounts, stock portfolios, or other possessions. As a help to finding this joy, consider this. God does not need anything. He is, the theologians say, “sufficient unto himself.” Hence anything we give to God – or to people in need, or to good causes – comes back to us. But it comes back to us changed, and enlarged. The bread and wine we offer in the Mass come back to us transformed into the Body and Blood of God’s divine Son. The same is true with all our gifts. That is why Paul writes: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”

There are people here who know that from personal experience. They experience the joy of living with open hearts, and open hands. If you’re not yet one of them, the Lord is inviting you to join our happy company -- today!