I’ll be straight with you: This column, and the two that will follow it, are to encourage you to think and pray about giving away more money – to our parish and to other charities.
If you’re still reading after that, let me say that my primary goal is not to balance the parish budget (although we need your generosity to do that). It’s to help you to save your soul and to enjoy your present life more, and to help our church (local and worldwide) to do the work Christ asks of us. Giving helps us to become more like Christ.
If you’ve read Kelly’s important book The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic you know that generosity is one of the signs: Engaged Catholics are generous – with their money, their time, their attention to family members and neighbors and coworkers, and with their praise and encouragement of others. Generosity becomes, for them, a way of living, not an occasional gesture.
And it starts in gratitude. Generous Catholics know they have been blessed by God, and work to become more deeply aware of that each day. And generous Catholics tend to have what Kelly calls a “philosophy of money” that helps them to see those blessings and to understand how they can be generous with them.
In today’s Gospel (The “widow with the two coins” – Mk 12:41-44] Jesus shows us that how we give is more important that what we give. The widow could only offer a few cents, but Jesus says she has given more than any of the others. We need to think hard about this.
I suspect that much Catholic giving comes from habit, or guilt, or impulsive response to a need. Not that any of those things are bad, but by themselves they’re not a good foundation for spiritual growth. Each of them, in its way, splits our use of money off from our adult discipleship. Yet Jesus talked about money and possessions more than anything else in the Gospel other than the “Kingdom of God” which He came to announce. Jesus understood that our approach to money and possessions is key to spiritual stunting, or spiritual growth.
Kelly [pp.128-131] says, “We need to start talking about the whole money picture: giving, earning, saving, and spending. [Money] has a way of reaching its tentacles deep into every relationship.”
So let me suggest two things as your “homework” for responding to the Gospel this week:
The numbers ground us in reality. But beyond the numbers is an attitude. You may remember that Kelly quotes Bishop Fulton Sheen: “Never measure your generosity by what you give, but rather by what you have left.” Our faith tells us that everything we have is a gift from God. God entrusts it to us so we can do His work (primarily, but not only, for our families). Kelly also quotes Pope Leo XII: “Once propriety and necessity are taken care of, everything else belongs to the poor.” Figuring out how that vision applies in 21st century America isn’t easy. But it’s also a task we shouldn’t neglect if we’re to become more like Christ.
More next week. Until then, peace.
 Another Bishop Sheen story (told by his nephew): “…people would often come up to ask him for money, telling him how they were down on their luck. He’d hand them $20. I’d ask him, “How do you know that they’re not putting you on; that they really need help?” He’d answer, “I can’t take the chance.”