We live in a society that seems to have forgotten much of this Gospel message. Children come to believe there is a trophy for every event in life. They have forgotten – if they ever knew – the thrill of running for the sheer joy of feeling the wind on their faces, a hug from a parent – a loving squeeze without words that conveys “I am so proud of you!”
All-too-quickly lose (many sadly never rediscover) the warm, fuzzy feelings of self-satisfaction that was once a natural reaction to success – that gleeful, almost smug smile the first time they stood alone, took their first step… when for the first time, to the consternation of the adults, they opened a child-proof container, hammered the first nail into mom’s precious table or exhibited their wonderful drawing with indelible pen on the living room wall…no one could be prouder of an achievement!
School children vie with each other to make donations to a collective cause. Why? Because they are learning the virtue of mercy? Or because they get a “free dress” day at school? When they come home with evidence of a playground tussle… what often is a parent’s response? Did you offer your other cheek? Hardly likely – too frequently I suspect it is more like “I hope you let that other kid know what it’s like to get hit.”
Jesus tells us: Give to everyone who asks; treat others as you’d like to be treated; don’t take back what you gave as gift; give God the credit due for the generous urges you feel toward others and the charitable thoughts that squelch the unkind words that try to spring thoughtlessly past our lips.
Jesus advises us: Give your cloak AND your tunic – not just your warm coat (since you have another at home) but also the shirt off your back. Today Jesus might challenge us – Why is your closet stuffed with blouses you haven’t worn since before you lost weight – or gained it? It is quite unlikely you’ll never wear them again. But that DAYSTAR customer, or that lady from the Sunrise women’s shelter who is going for a job interview? Your blouse would fit her perfectly and add an ounce of confidence to her self-esteem.
Jesus reminds us, when we invite company for a meal not to wait for a return dinner date. Don’t ask: whose turn is it to pick up the tab this time? He says to lend freely without expectation of repayment. And when you respond generously to the impulse to do good – what caused that desire to arise? Be slow to assume it is due to anything you have done. Remember Jesus says, “even sinners lend to their own kind.” Give, and gifts will be given to you – in good measure, tamped down, packed tight, so your vessel can hold every tiny possible grain of blessing – full to overflowing – spilling over into your life and influencing all around you.
But there is a condition – if you are stingy, stinginess will be yours. But, If you give without measure, ah, blessed the gift! – generosity will be yours.
So how will you measure out your kindness – by the teaspoon, tablespoon or a cupful? By the minute, by the hour it might take you? You have 24 hours in a day (you know?) … a 168 a week, (true not all waking hours). That’s time in excess of 8000 hours a year! How flexible will you be with these God-given hours? Will you respond to an imposition on your time – Now? Tomorrow? Next week? Or with a prayer that the request will be forgotten? Or will you give with open hands and heart – freely, without measure? Jesus promises us: “the measure with which you measure, it will in turn be measured out to you.”