Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Years ago, while looking for new music to listen to, I stumbled upon an album by a Catholic artist named Burke Ingraffia. It was an interesting recording, spanning a variety of styles and had been recorded in New Orleans shortly before Hurricane Katrina. By the time the album was released, many of the collaborating artists had been displaced by the storm and had not returned to their home city to perform or record. This seemed to give the songs an extra layer of meaning. One of Burke’s songs, called “Give it Away” was about finding real, lasting happiness. In it, he says “Find something you love and give it away, give it away.” It’s a call to generosity informed by an understanding that when we give the things we love to others, we actually end up receiving far more than we realized. To be honest, it was not the best song on the album, but the Gospel we hear at Mass this weekend brought it to mind.
We hear the parable of the rich man who had stored up many earthly treasures, but had been spiritually poor. His riches did nothing for him in the end. Jesus is quite consistent throughout the Gospels in teaching that, while the worker deserves his wages, the love of money is very much at odds with living in a relationship with the Father. So it is that Jesus calls repeatedly for generosity. When we find something we love, our natural tendency is to want others to experience or share in it. If we love money in a disordered way, though, we tend to turn in on ourselves and become miserly or greedy, or both. On the other hand, if we train ourselves to “give it away, give it away” we form a habit of generosity and cultivate our ability to share the things we love. If I am accustomed to share the love that I have, it is no burden or challenge to give generously because my giving is rooted in love. Further, we become detached from material things, understanding that the greatest value is in the relationships we cultivate with the people around us, and, above all, with God. Speak to anyone who has lost possessions due to an accident, fire, natural disaster, or some other calamity, and you will hear resoundingly in their voice the echo of Jesus’ words in the Gospel, “one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
In church circles, it is common to speak of stewardship. The principles of good stewardship are time, talent, and treasure. To be good stewards of a parish community means that we give generously of our time (whether by simply being present at the principle gathering of the community, i.e. Sunday Mass, or by volunteering our time at parish functions), of our talent (putting our gifts and abilities to work for the good of the parish, whenever possible), and of our treasure (financially supporting the needs of our parish according to our means). We are all called to be good stewards and stewardship provides us all with one way in which we can put today’s Gospel into action. When we give of our time, talent, and treasure, we remember that our life does not consist of possessions. Spiritually, this way of giving opens our hearts to the needs of others, allows us to make an offering of our very selves to the Lord, and so store up treasure in heaven. Above all, in order to give it away, we need to find something we love…or in this case, find someone – Jesus. When we love the Lord with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength we are ready to give everything in our lives for Him, and we want to share that love with others. This week, let us store up treasures in heaven, detaching ourselves from those material things and concerns that hold us back, so that we can truly give from a place of love and seek God above all things.