“For it is in giving that we receive.”
I think it was during that yet impressionable age during high school when I first heard a statement about our obligations to the Church that has stuck with me ever since. I don’t even remember who said it, but the important thing was the implication that it held for me as a member of the Church Militant and the lifelong decision to which it led me.
Before we get to that, it is important to know that I understood a simple distinction between justice and charity. Justice is giving to each one what is his or her due. The Gospel verse that comes to mind is the one from Luke 17:10, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'” Basically, justice was something we are already obligated to do. Then there is charity, in the sense of loving our neighbor without counting the cost. You can think of it as going above and beyond.
Above and beyond what? Justice.
So with these concepts in mind, here is what I heard: “Giving ten percent of our income to the Church is justice. Giving more than that is charity.”
At least for me at the time it was something of an accusation – I don’t think I had ever put anything of my own into the collection basket! Of everything that I had received what had I really given back to the Church? I didn’t deserve a pat on the pack for every dollar that I gave either, but had an obligation to support the Church. I made the decision that from then on I would keep track of any money I earned and give a percentage of it to the Church. The Church gave me spiritual life, fed me with sacraments and grace, so it only seems part of spiritual maturity that I should now fulfill this obligation towards her. I know there are other, more spiritual obligations we have, but as I’m sure Fr Jim will tell you, the parish doesn’t run on prayers alone. The Church has a presence in this world, and that requires material goods.
When I was working for a year at a Catholic school in the Dallas area, I had the grace of meeting one of the top benefactors who happened to be a jeweler. He told us how, before he had really given anything, his wife asked him to consider making a sizeable donation to some priests. Talking about it one night they agreed to make the donation, even though it was going to stretch them. The next day, he sold a piece to a buyer for $100,000, which was more than any sale he had made up to then. And from then on he continued being generous and his business continued doing well. He said he discovered his vocation was to just make money and give it to the Church. Now, not all of us will have this vocation, but we do all need to aspire to giving until it hurts a little, believing that God cannot be outdone in generosity.
Why am I writing this here, on a blog for university students?
You all are well aware of the constant accusations we get of being impecunious. But even if we do have very little, Jesus sees our sacrifice and is pleased as he was with the widow who gave the mite (cf. Mk 12:41-44). But most of all, I am doing it because the more good habits you can form while you are young, the better!
I will leave you with a challenge: since Lent is upon us this could be part of your Lenten almsgiving, but really if you start now I hope it becomes a fulfilling lifelong discipline. Decide on a percentage, and the next time you receive money for yourself – if you work it could be a paycheck, or if not maybe money you get on your birthday, or whatever – set aside that percentage to give to the church, even if it is only a few cents.
If you have not given to the Our Faith Our Future capital campaign, this would be the perfect opportunity to do that as well.
Blog post written by EN Barnett