According to the book, sign #3 is GENEROSITY. As a side observation, I note that the sequence of these four “signs” increases in stress-level for most folks: it’s far easier to be a person of prayer, but harder, after, to be a person of study, then of generosity, and finally (wait for it) evangelization. But I digress…
From my perspective, this sign is another word for stewardship. It is not, in my vocabulary, the same as “tithing.” I prefer the idea of “sacrificial giving,” and this includes the whole package of parish involvement, not just the checkbook.
In Mere Christianity, C S Lewis speaks about giving. His perspective is fascinating. He said it’s important to calculate how much you have, how much you need, and then you’ll see what you can afford to give. Then, he says, give a little more. This is where the “sacrificial” aspect of giving comes in. It’s why the poor widow in the Gospel was praised by Jesus— even if she didn’t literally give “all she had to live on,” she was making a real sacrifice that those of us who give only out of our surplus cannot fathom.
But this applies to time and talent, as well. How generous can I be with these aspects of my parish commitment? It’s a sacrifice of time to join the “Elves” on Friday mornings to clean the church. It’s a sacrifice to get up early on one of the 4 Saturdays of the year when a more serious church cleaning takes place. It’s a sacrifice to offer to be a Monday morning collection counter, or to help maintain the church grounds with our “Vineyard Workers.” And many cannot do some of these since they are still working for a living. But what about becoming an usher/greeter—welcoming people to our parish at weekend Masses? For those already ministers of Holy Communion, might we consider also bringing the Eucharist to the sick and home-bound, once a week? Or perhaps by joining our St Vincent de Paul Society we might, every now and then, go along with a home visitation to a family in need, to see what their needs really are. These extensions of self are risky: they might lead us to change…
Some folks think that they have no talent: they think they have a bad singing voice or cannot play an instrument; they think they cannot read well in public and think themselves “too unworthy” to be a minister of Holy Communion. But there is one talent in really short supply, one that everyone can offer: this is the talent of being present to others. I think especially of the opportunity to be a companion (sponsor) for our RCIA candidates & catechumens, or perhaps being a chaperone for a youth group activity. This kind of presence speaks the word “love” very, very loudly. We all can do it. Mother Teresa always used to say that the greatest poverty in the world is the poverty of not being loved. How simple it is, though, by our presence, to lead others to realize that they are loved!
This is generosity in its many facets. How generous can you be? Always, it is Jesus to whom your generosity is offered.