We have been given the great gift of salvation through Jesus our Lord. He prayed for us; he took upon himself our human condition; and he humbled himself in order to experience everything we experience but sin (Hebrews 4:15) and to approach the sinner in service of their salvation. In these ways, we are called to follow him as we, too, pray, exercise generosity, and serve others in charity. Every November our parish conducts a recommitment to our stewardship of prayer, generosity, and service. This beginning of the month of June is a good time to reflect upon that commitment. We have finished the winter and spring seasons with various sacramental celebrations and graduations. As we enter upon a season of vacation, rest, reading, and relaxation, it is also a good time for us to evaluate ourselves as to how well we have made a return to God for the many blessings entrusted to us.
For those among us with families, this summer time without school does not necessarily allow us more time. More often than not, other activities take the time that might otherwise be available during the summer. Still, the summer season is a time to consider whether or not we need to modify or restructure the time that we spend with God in prayer: How generous are we with our time with God? Do we fill all of our prayer time with spiritual activities which, while good in and of themselves, actually provide a way for us to avoid the voice of God in our lives? Do we allow ourselves to adjust our spiritual practices as we progress or grow in our faith? Have we come to a spiritual night of faith and thereby given up on our spiritual life? Questions such as these can help us to evaluate the quality of the time that we spend with God in prayer. Also, there are many aides available for prayer and spiritual development as well as a variety of prayer groups here at St. John Parish.
Generosity also is a characteristic of a healthy spiritual life. We are called to trust in God’s providence: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25). “Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38). And, from the Prayer of St. Francis, “It is in giving that we receive.” Do we live by this spiritual guide in our lives? Do we do what God did when he sent his son Jesus in taking the initiative in generosity? Do we give BEFORE we receive? Or, do we anxiously fret over the cost of giving? From the perspective of human nature, it is counter-intuitive to give before having received. However, as Christians, we are called to give, not in a careless, haphazard way, but in a trusting fashion and according to our means. This quote from St. Paul is a little lengthy, but it communicates this idea well:
I say this not by way of command, but to test the genuineness of your love by your concern for others. For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And I am giving counsel in this matter, for it is best for you now to complete what a year ago you began not only to do but to desire, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have; not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your surplus at the present time should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs that there may be equality (2 Corinthians 8: 8-14).
If we desire to be generous before receiving, God will bless that faith-filled generosity. In doing so, we might be surprised at the “overflowing poured into our lap.”
Lastly, we also might consider here at the beginning of June the ways in which we have served those in need and how, in those ways, we might be good stewards of the service that God has shown to us. Our parish has a whole variety of services and ministries to serve God’s people. You can find then listed in our parish resource directory. Yet, our serving others need not be limited to our parish ministries. Perhaps you have discovered ways in which your talents are used for the betterment of others’ lives. Each of us is called to be a good steward of the talents and gifts we have received. The way to do that is to give those talents back to God in loving service to others.
– Fr. Jeff