THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF GENEROSITY

HOMILY FOR THE 13TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)

 Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Generosity - Braving the Hot Mess

Once upon a time, a wise monk was ascending the Himalayan mountain to observe his usual quiet moments of prayer and meditation. On his way, he picked a precious stone, and with excitement, he dropped it in his shoulder bag and continued his journey.

Further up the mountain, the wise man met a young man who was descending looking tired and hungry. Presuming that the monk could have food in his bag, he asked for something to eat. The wise monk opened his bag and finding nothing edible, and he gave the young man the precious stone. The young man was excited as he collected the precious stone and sped down to the city. “With this, my entire life will change if I sell this to any of the rich merchants in the city,” he assured himself.

Reaching the city, the young man started having a double mind about the precious stone. Instantly he turned back and headed to the mountains to look for the wise monk, He saw him coming down from the mountain, and he said, “thank you for the precious stone I appreciate it, but I am returning it to you. I would rather have you give me that thing that made you give me this precious stone without thinking twice about it, that thing must be more precious than the stone”.

The thing the young man was asking from the monk is the spirit of generous giving. There is a significant difference between merely giving and generous giving. Giving comes from the hand, but generous giving comes from the heart. Generous giving involves an attitude of giving freely and without conditions. St. Paul also calls it cheerful, giving in his Second Letter to the Corinthians (9:7).

Receiving the Prophet’s Reward

Significant aspects of the Liturgy of the Word today tell us about generous giving. In the First Reading (2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a), we hear an exciting story about the hospitality a couple extended to the prophet Elisha. We interpret their hospitality as generous giving because they were not expecting anything in return from the prophet though they had a vital need; they had no child. What was topmost in their minds was how to make the prophet of God comfortable anytime he shows up in the area.

Elisha could have been amazed at their selfless giving, and that was why he asked his servant Gehazi how he could compensate the couple for their uncommon kindness towards him, and he mentioned their need for a child. The couple did not ask a payback for their kindness with a child. Instead, their generous giving spoke for them.

In the Gospel Reading (Matthew 10:37-42), our Lord Jesus Christ was reflecting on the narrative of the First Reading when talked about extending kindness to those who serve God:

whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. Whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple- amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.

There would be a need for us to understand our Lord’s statement here. You will receive the prophet’s reward if you receive him because of his prophetic identity, not because of what he can do for you. The Shunammite couple received Elisha as a prophet of God, not on account of what they would obtain from him through his stay in their home.

Another fact that may puzzle any active mind is the nature of the prophet’s reward, which is a promise to anyone that provides for a prophet because he is a prophet. Ordinarily, most people would think of this reward in material terms.

However, going through the stories of the prophets in the Scriptures, we do not see them as wealthy individuals. In lieu, some of them were materially rich until they became prophets and left their possessions like Amos and Elisha.

So, what is the prophet’s reward? We can identify this from the promises God made to those who preach the good news. Isaiah says their feet are beautiful upon the mountain (Isaiah 52:7). Our Lord says that great portents and signs would accompany them (Mark 16:17). The prophet’s reward is essentially spiritual blessings though there could be some physical resonance.

When our Lord rose from the dead, the first thing he said to the disciples at the Upper Room was “peace be with you” (John 20:19-20). Peace from the Hebrew understanding is “shalom,” and it means wholeness and complete wellbeing. Now we can see the direction of the prophet’s reward: spiritual blessings and peace.

Moving Forward: Give from the Heart, not from the Hand

You have heard that givers do not lack. It is not one of those conspiracy theories; it is a fact because there would be gifts for anyone that gives (Luke 6:38). The liturgy of the Word today challenges us to be generous in our giving, which means giving from our hearts. St. Paul would tell the Corinthians that those who sow sparingly would reap sparing and those who sow generously would reap generously (2 Cor. 9:6)

Often most people mistakenly think that giving should always be handing out of money or other material things. There is so much we can offer from our hearts. It could be your time, a sincere counsel; it could be prayer or even a sincere simile that could make someone’s day. Remember that there would be a reward for every giving, especially when it comes from the heart. Theodore Roosevelt says, “nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

God bless you and have a beautiful Sunday and a blessed week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie,

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