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God Loves a Cheerful Giver
Generosity gets you everywhere with God.
It's one of the key principles of the spiritual life. But how much should we give? How much should we sacrifice? How much should we pour out of our time, talent, and treasure?
Let love decide.
For St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast we celebrate on Oct. 4, love said, "Give it all away." He embraced Lady Poverty in order to give everything to Jesus. Determined to live a Gospel life, he found perfect joy, even through great suffering, humiliation, the loss of his family, his place in society, many of his friends, and much more — but he also found himself repaid a hundredfold with a new family in his order, with donations of food and clothing from those who saw his sanctity and responded with love. He received everything from the Lord, to whom he had given everything, because he trusted. Because he loved.
It's the simple way, the easy way of the little children of the Lord. Saint Therese of Lisieux set down its essentials in her Story of a Soul, and Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, explained it in Consoling the Heart of Jesus. But for a simple, easy way for little children, it can be really, really difficult for us adults. Trust is hard after living for long enough in a fallen world. Generosity is difficult, when so often it seems we are rewarded with nothing, or with suffering, or with far less than we've given.
And yet we must trust, and we must love, for that is the way of the life of the Trinity, the source of all that is. The Father gives all to the Son, and the Son returns all to the Father, and the gift that is given is the Spirit. In the Incarnation, the Son gave all to the Father by His loving self-sacrifice for the life of the world; we, then, who are followers of the Son, fellow children of God by the Son's self-gift, will also be called to the same sort of self-sacrifice.
In the life of St. Francis of Assisi, part of that self-sacrifice included accepting the stigmata, bearing the wounds of Jesus in his own body. Though not all of us will bear the visible stigmata, still we are called to loving suffering in the service of Jesus. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church," said St. Paul (Col 1:24), not that the sufferings of Christ are incomplete, but rather that we, as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, are called to share in the suffering of Jesus our head. As Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, "Show me your hands. Do they have scars from giving? Show me your feet. Are they wounded in service? Show me your heart. Have you left a place for divine love?"
Let us ask St. Francis of Assisi to pray for us that we may bear our crosses and our wounds in the service of Jesus with love and fortitude, grateful for our blessings and generous in our self-sacrifice. Let us ask St. Francis for his intercession that we may trust in Jesus, knowing that our reward for all that we give up for God will be God Himself, the infinitely lovable source of all that is good.