Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:6-7

Monday, September 23, 2013


Yesterday my husband and I went to different Masses, unusual for us now that the children are older. He attended an early Mass at a parish close to our home (our former parish) and I attended our usual noon Mass at our parish. He had that golf outing to attend which started before lunch hour (on a Sunday -- and for a Catholic school -- urg!).

When he came home from Mass, my husband reported the scolding that the congregation had received following the Gospel message in yesterday's liturgy -- one of the "good steward" messages -- during the homily. One of the parish deacons (a fairly wealthy parish which just built a multi-million dollar church larger than many cathedrals) gave them a "damnation and hellfire" homily about it not being good enough to "just donate money," but one has to get one's hands dirty with the poor. In general, you'll get a social justice message at that parish more often than not. My husband said it was a long homily and the message was repeated frequently -- "it's not enough to just give money away to charity."

Our homily at our parish was a much kinder and gentler message (oh, the difference a loving priest makes), but the message was sent "as you live so will you die." If you live stingy and uncharitably, you will be rewarded accordingly. Our Father sees every act of charity, He knows the heart that gave, He knows how much it hurt.

Mother Teresa said, "We must give until it hurts."And she was wise enough to know that we all have different pain thresholds. What I can tolerate you might not be able to, and vice versa.

Last week, for example, I busied myself sorting clothes for charities and to mail to friends in need. I sewed scapulars for our parish priest. I catered lunch for the staff at our Christian dance studio. Did I give until it hurt? Well, probably not, but, then again, I actually was in physical pain after cooking that big lunch. {wink} But seriously, I was. And my husband also got up very early every day, as he does every single day, drove our son to Catholic school (where we pay the Church to educate our son, which I consider to be a charitable act), he worked hard all week and we made donations to all our regular charities -- some out of his paycheck, some to our church, and we upped our donation to our local pregnancy help center. Did all that hurt? Well, it did in many respects. No one gave a limb away, but it surely did pinch, as many expenses do these days. We could have done none of it.

I am not writing about any of this to say "Hey, look what I did! I am so good!" I don't think I did anything extraordinary. In fact, when the dance director thanked me for bringing lunch to the staff, she said "No one does that!" And I said, "Well, someone should!" We should all be helping out. If everybody did their part, no one would want. The staff at the dance studio isn't starving, but they are far from rich, and they are hungry.

I really hope you don't take this the wrong way. See, in our culture, in our country, it is the rich who are told to do, do, do, and do more. I know,

 "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded" Luke 12:48.

 And obviously, if you have more, you can give more. But even if you have less, you can give a bit, right? Remember, 

"And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him, and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living" Mark 12:41.

Which leads me to my quandary, why are only the rich asked to give, and not only give, but get one's hands dirty with the poor? I don't have an issue getting my hands dirty, but can the poor also get their hands dirty, or are they exempt from helping one another? Is being poor sacrifice enough? In that case, isn't being sick sacrifice enough? Or mentally tormented? Or bereaved? Who, I ask, is entitled?

There are many, many excuses in the world to not give, and to not get one's hands dirty. Many people in our country think that "someone should take care of the poor," but certainly not them. I have checked the giving records of many a (liberal) politician and it is almost always dismal. They don't believe in giving, they believe in taking (and redistributing). There are many poor in this country who also feel no obligation to their fellow man. They take the handout, but do they give back, get their hands dirty, so to speak? Even the poor can ladle food at the soup kitchen, sort clothing donations, pack groceries at the food bank.

"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me'" Matthew 25:31-45.

Does it say anywhere in that passage that the hungry were poor, that thirsty were poor, the naked were poor, or the stranger was poor, the sick were poor, the prisoner was poor?

I have said before that there is no redemption in paying taxes. There is no redemption in taking a welfare check. There is redemption in charity, and redemption in the humility of asking for help. Give and receive, not give and take. 

We should all help one another. If you are rich, but your soul is in need, I should help you. If you are rich and you are sick, I should help you. If I am rich or I am poor, I should be getting my hands dirty. Our Lord ask this of us.

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you" John 15:12.

Rich or poor.


  1. Thanks for the food for thought; I will have some nuggets to digest. I do have to add something that struck me as a reflection of our state of society. I received an e-birthday card last week from one of my oldest friends. We are on very different paths in life, but it was thoughtful of her to remember me. At the bottom of her card was the quote, " To whom much is given, much is required." - Oprah Winfrey. Yeah, no Jesus, no Gospel reference. Blew me away with the ignorance, arrogance, and narcissism so prevalent today. Maybe someone will do something good because Oprah said so. Who knows!

  2. Barbara, this is a very interesting post. I wanted to share with you that the local Catholic assistance program in my parish boundaries requires those that need assistance to volunteer in their thrift shop, etc. People are so surprised when they find this out...I know I was. It really is a breath of fresh air because it recognized the dignity there is in working and providing for one's self and family. Your post has given me much to think about. Do I really give until it hurts? I would have to say "no" in most cases. Thanks so much for the food for thought. : )

    1. The dignity in receiving lovingly...yes! That's beautiful.

  3. I agree with you and disagree with you. I agree that no matter how poor you are, there will always be someone poorer. I think we can still give til it hurts. BUT I also think sometimes, depending on the amount of stress that poor-ness brings, maybe they are to the point of breaking with just one more thing. What I mean is when Simeon went through all his surgeries and I was pumping breastmilk (all the time), I couldn't make meals for people, or help them out in any way. I felt really guilty, but I just couldn't. I felt as if "one more thing" would break me, as if it was unimaginable...maybe this is not a good comparison, but I think we should always give and give and not worry about if anyone else is giving. What matters is what we do.

    I also find it interesting that our priest (who we love) talked about choosing good friends, being around good people, people that will lead us to good things---kind of the message of St Francis de Sales. (because the steward did not have good friends they didn't really care about him, they didn't mind if he cheated, etc...)

  4. Great post. Lots to think about. I remember when I was a starving college student and someone gave 50 bucks so I could have a garage for the winter. Never will forget that kindness or any act of kindness for that matter. What comes around..goes around!

  5. I think it's great that you remember that act of kindness!


I appreciate your comments -- sometimes I feel like I'm talking to myself!