27 Feb Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 24, 2019
Father Shawn J. Hughes
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.
God bless you.
The Gospel today indirectly gives us a portrait of our God. Jesus shows us what kind of Lord he really is: a lavish one. Nothing limits his generosity – not ingratitude, not opposition, not concern for himself – nothing. Generosity is at the core of who God is.
He is also giving us a portrait of the qualities of anyone who follows him. Nothing should limit the generosity of the follower of Christ – not ingratitude, not opposition, not concern for oneself – nothing should limit the generosity of the follower of Christ.
What does such lavish generosity look like?
A Christian loves his enemies, meaning we pray for God’s blessing upon them, upon those we hate, upon those who curse us, on those who abuse us. A Christian is called to an amazing generosity towards those who are against us. It almost seems impossible for us and certainly is not the standard of the world.
A Christian gives, even to those who take from us and especially to those who beg from us.
A Christian is good, does the right thing, and lends…expecting nothing in return.
A Christian is merciful just as the Father is merciful.
A Christian does not judge, meaning not that he doesn’t recognize wrong, a Christian always stands in the truth, but that he/she does not look down on others, that he recognizes the equal dignity of all before God no matter what they have done. And thus, a Christian does not condemn anyone. No one is completely hopeless. There is always hope no matter what has taken place.
A Christian forgives. Why? So that we will be forgiven.
A Christina gives. Why? So that we will receive.
In the midst of this portrait, Jesus also teaches us one of the most basic laws of his Kingdom: the amount we measure out is the amount we will be given back. Our generosity will be matched in the generosity shown to us. Our lack of generosity will be matched in an absence of generosity shown to us.
‘The more generous we are to others, the better we learn the art of self-giving, of self-forgetful love, the more intensely we will experience the fulfilling life we have been created for. The reason is quite simple. We are created in God’s image and God is love; his very divine nature is all about self-giving love. So the more we develop our capacity for love – authentic, self-forgetful love – the more we mature into what God has created us to be. And just as a mature, healthy apple tree bears abundant fruit, so a mature, healthy human soul overflows with the spiritual fruits that St. Paul lists in his letter to the Galatians 5:25: love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, gentleness, faith, generosity, self-control, chastity and modesty.
This gospel made me think of last Monday’s, daily Mass’ Scripture Reading. It was the foundational iconic story of Cain and Abel. Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruits of his soil. Abel’s offering to God was “one of the best of his flock.” Cain brought some. Abel brought his best. God was pleased with Abel’s offering. He brought his best. God was not pleased with Cain’s offering because he did not bring his best – he simply brought some.
Cain’s failure began with selfishness, perhaps even carelessness, simply not giving his offering enough thought. Cain lacked in generosity. This lack of generosity put him in a disposition to sin grievously. We need to take note here. When we are selfish, when we fail in generosity, we have put ourselves in a disposition to sin even more grievously.
God was not pleased with Cain’s lack of generosity, but he did not condemn him. He was patient with him. God gently, mercifully and compassionately, corrected Cain. Listen to what God says to Cain:
“Why are you so resentful and crestfallen.
If you do well, you can hold up your head;
but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door:
his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.” (Genesis 4:6-7)
We need to remember this. Of course if we do well. If we are generous and selfless we can hold up our head…But if we are not generous, if we are selfish, God says we will be tempted to sin further. But he clearly says we have the ability to master our selfishness and lack of generosity.
But Cain’s lack of generosity and his disposition of selfishness, when corrected by God, rather than accepting God’s correction and changing. He resented God’s correction. And as God noted, that put him on dangerous ground. He was ripe for temptation.
So, selfishness, lack of generosity unless corrected leads to discouragement; leads to resentment. Discouragement and resentment lead to envy. And Envy leads to much worse and in Cain’s case, envy led to the murder of his brother Abel.
In our daily lives we need to pay close attention to negative emotions. We can’t pretend they aren’t there. We can’t cover them up. We need to be honest with ourselves, God, and others when they come. We need to be aware of them.
As we are aware of our negative feelings we must seek understanding and ask ourselves, “What happened that I am feeling this way?” I need to stand in the truth.
As I grown in understanding I discover that my own behaviour or attitude, my own selfishness, my own failure to do my best is at the root of the issue…I fix it as God encourages Cain to do. I need to try it again. I need to seek advice. I especially need to admit fault. It would have been a very simple solution for Cain to go back to his harvest and say, “Oh, I get it now, I need to give God my best.”
Instead Cain discovered…too late…that God expects not only our personal best…but also God expects us to be our brother’s keeper. It isn’t just about us and God. It’s about us, God, and others.
Cain failed in generosity. Followers of Jesus Christ are called to be generous in all things. The measure we give is the measure we get.
In light of today’s Scriptures, the key question throughout this coming week is: Am I being as generous as I am called to be? With your spouse. With your children, your parents, your siblings. Am I being as generous as I am called to be with my talents, with my time, with my patience, kindness, gentleness, with my self-control? Am I being as generous as I am called to be?
I’d like to end with a parable: it is more effective when told in the first person. “A beggar comes to my door asking for water to quench his thirst. I will not turn him away fearing some neighbour might observe my disdain. At the same time I do not consider the beggar worthy of touching with his lips more than the smallest tin cup in the house, which I quickly fill and brusquely hand him, so carelessly that half the cup spills. The cup is so small and of such little value, in fact, I just tell him to keep it. In reality, I don’t want to waste my time in his company.
Much time – a whole lifetime – passes, and I find myself in the presence of Christ the King and Judge. I anxiously await my reward: I have always revered God, kept the commandments, observed the Lenten fasts and celebrated the Church’s feasts with due solemnity. The King hands me back my tin cup, which I had long forgotten and certainly did not expect to see again in this eschatological setting. Seeing the look of dismay on my face, and with an infinite kindness, Christ says to me: “I’m sorry, my friend. Even I, the King, have no other cup to give you.” (Fire of Mercy: Heart of the Word, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, pp. 290-291)
The measure we give is the measure we get.
Generosity is at the core of who God is. Therefore, generosity must be at the core of who we are as well.