In the last few years the U.S. economy has faced its greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. The financial debacle, fueled by failed mortgages, the collapse of Wall Street, and other factors, has rippled through every sector of the economy. Consumer confidence is at an all-time low. Millions are out of work, wondering how they will make ends meet. In these troubled times despair is not an option. Only hope! We must believe that with each new challenge comes a new opportunity.
When crises occur and the affairs of life are thrown into confusion, we become more aware of our vulnerabilities. In such moments, we are able to see more clearly the things that matter most in our life. We come to realize that loving relation-ships count the most, and that includes our relationship with the living God.
A crisis allows us to make judgments on our values and our priorities. What catches and holds our attention most of the time? Are we focused on the higher and nobler things of life that lead to good works, or are we focused on, what St. Paul calls, “selfish ambitions and conceit” (Phil. 2:3), that enslave souls and shut out the concerns of others, even of those closest to us.
The economic meltdown has had huge negative effects on countless people, some of whom may be our neighbors, friends, or relatives. The economic crisis has also impacted many charitable institutions, including schools and churches. Having felt the pinch, many institutions have been forced to slash budgets and lay off staff. People everywhere are hurting. In these challenging times of distress and want what role are we called to play?
I think St. Paul provides us with an answer. In his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians he extols the unflinching generosity of the faithful of Macedonia who, though poor themselves, did not hesitate to lend their support to the indigent brethren in Asia Minor and Jerusalem. “In a severe test of affliction their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor. 8:2-4). What a marvelous witness of Christian joy and love; a perfect example of cheerful giving. The faithful of Macedonia, filled with and motivated by Christian love, did not ask “How little” but “How much?” This is how cheerful givers think and act.
An authentic Christian life requires that we be imitators of God in his bountiful love and compassion. Because He gives freely expecting nothing in return, He desires that we do the same. “The point is this,” wrote St. Paul. “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work” (2 Cor. 9:6-8)
By belonging to Christ, we have become a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). This means that we think, see, feel, understand, and do things differently. As free persons, the recipients of God’s great blessings, we seek to manifest His mercy and love by maintaining good conduct and performing good deeds, giving cheerfully, that God may be glorified (1 Peter 2:9-12).
Sermon by Fr. Philippe Mousis