Teasing out generosity

- Fr. Roy Cimagala - The Freeman

I believe that we are by nature generous. We have been wired to share things. That's why even early on, in our childhood, we find it natural or, at least, not hard to share what we have with others. Just observe a child and his ways. The proof is all there.

We clearly know that what we have is actually shared with us also by others, like our parents, brothers and sisters, etc., and so we find it natural also to share it with others. That's one of the first laws in life, without calling it that, that we instinctively follow.

But while this is true in its basic state, we also know that we need to develop it. Our human condition requires it so. As creatures who know, judge, reason and choose, we are also bound by the law that we need to know more deeply about why we have to be generous and why we have to choose to be so.

We should not take this duty for granted, for many are the elements along the way that seek to undermine this natural tendency of ours. We have our weaknesses to contend with, weaknesses that our faith tells us are the consequences of original sin, and these distort if not abort our complete understanding of the need for generosity.

Then obviously we have to contend too with the consequences of personal and collective sins that have diversified in various forms through the years. These threaten our capacity to be generous. There's greed, envy, deceit, vanity, etc.-all these undermine if not destroy our natural tendency to be generous.

We have been reminded of this need to cultivate generosity in the gospel. "Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions," Christ said. (Lk 12,15)

We are told not to lay up treasures for oneself but rather to be rich toward God, that is, to be generous with God and with everybody else. Avarice, hoarding, simply pursuing our self-interest and personal welfare are actually inhuman, let alone, unchristian.

It's also good for us to remember that there is such a thing as "universal destination of earthly goods." That's an official part of our Christian doctrine. "In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits.

"The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race." (CCC 2402) Even if there is also such a thing as right to private ownership, that right is always subordinated and is supposed to work for this more fundamental truth about the universal destination of goods.

We need to be reminded of these basic truths especially now when we see many of our brothers and sisters and whole families suddenly plunged into helplessness because of the killer earthquake in Bohol and Cebu last October 15.

We are now asked to share what we have in a more dramatic and drastic way with the victims of the calamity. We have to open up everything-our hearts, minds, and yes, our purses and other resources-to lend a hand to them. Let's be generous until it hurts. In fact, our generosity should go even beyond hurts.

Let's reassure ourselves of the teaching of Christ himself who encouraged us to give and give, because what we give will come back to us a hundredfold and in ways and forms much better than they are now.

Let's see to it that we manage to sustain our generosity, making it grow and evolve as the vital needs of the affected people also unroll. Let's see to it that we don't get trapped in the sentimental, knee-jerk kind of generosity, good only in the beginning, but cannot cope with the full range of the people's needs.

We have to expand our idea of generosity to embrace not only the immediate needs but also the long-range ones, not only the material needs but also and more importantly the spiritual ones.

It should be a generosity that involves the total person, our mind and heart, and not just a matter of giving away our extras that we can dispose of anytime.

Remember that episode of the poor widow who gave two mites that were all he had. Christ said of her: "This poor widow has cast in more than all they who have cast into treasury. For they cast in of their abundance, but she of her want cast all she had." (Mk 1,43-44)



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