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Let the river of generosity run through you

How to have a generous spirit

Once upon a time, an atheist moved in next to an elderly woman of deep faith. She was known for her generosity to the poor and her gratitude to God. Whenever she walked outside, she would lift her hands to heaven and say, “Praise the Lord!” and followed the praise with much thanksgiving. This is how she always started her day, and she spent her day doing good for others whenever she could. “Praise the Lord” was always on her lips. This irritated the atheist very much. Every time he heard her say this, he would yell back, “There is no Lord!” She was not discouraged. She kept praying and praising the Lord.
    One day in the winter, she went outside and praised God for the snow, but she added, “Dear God, I thank you for your constant goodness to me. I know you take care of all my needs. I am having trouble getting my groceries this week with all this snow but I trust you will send me what I need. Thank you Lord!”
    Well, the neighbor atheist overheard her prayer and had an idea. He would show the woman how silly it was to pray to God. He went out and bought her some groceries and put them on her doorstep. The next day, when she came to the door and saw all the groceries, she lifted her hands to heaven and shouted out, “Praise the Lord!”
    The atheist neighbor who had waited for this moment with much glee stepped out from the pine tree in her yard and said, “There is no Lord to praise, hahaha! I bought those groceries myself and put them on your doorstep!” The little old lady, with an even larger smile on her face, raised her arms to the sky and said, “Praise the Lord! You sent me groceries and even made the devil pay for them!”
    God’s generosity comes to us in many different ways, even through unbelievers and grouches! Yet we must acknowledge that it is far more beneficial to us if we willingly cooperate with God than to remain stingy, selfish or in unbelief. Many times, people refrain from doing good to others because they do not trust God enough. If they put themselves out, they worry about what will happen to them. Generosity may jeopardize their security. Jesus told us not to worry. “Your Father in heaven knows what you need before you ask him.” (Mt 6:8)
    God invites us to join him in offering ourselves to others as a gift. Generosity is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (cf Gal 5:22)
    There are great graces in the river of generosity. When we jump in, we may find it uncomfortable at first; the current might be strong, and the water cold. We will be more vulnerable, less secure. But we are actually discovering that we were living in an illusion. Our security was being placed in things or in our bank accounts. Real security is in God. In time, as we grow in generosity we grow in trust. The more we give, the more we receive. God is even more present to us, for by the very act of giving we become more united to God who is perfect gift. We are not in the river, but are one with the river! We become one of the many currents and streams of this glorious river of generosity from God that gives life and healing to the whole world.
    There are many generous people in the world. Some people have been blessed with great material wealth. Much is expected of those to whom much has been given.
    Some people do not have a lot of money, but they make a sacrifice of their time to be with others. I know some young people who gave up a few years of time and went on missions to help spread the Gospel across the United States and in other countries. Every parish has its saints who are fountains of generosity and service. Day in and day out they serve the needy, the homebound, the ill, those in prison, the troubled and the lonely. They give one of the most precious gifts God has given us – time. God has promised if we give him time, he will give us eternity.

How to grow in generosity of Spirit
Generosity is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, so we must acknowledge clearly that it is a work of God’s grace within us. However, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit. We let the river of grace flow through us. We remove the debris and clutter that can dam up the river, and then dive in. Don’t hold back. Let go and jump in! You will find it a joyful swim.
    Points to consider about generosity:
• When you perform an act of generosity, do not be sad about it. “Do away with miserliness and counting the cost.” (St. Gregory Nazianzen)
• Be ready to be generous at all times – especially when it is inconvenient. Many saints have said that it is a good thing to interrupt a routine, or drop what you are doing – even if it is prayer, to help someone in need.
• Eror on the side of generosity. Sometimes people will demand things of us, and even be ungrateful, and may be taking advantage of us. I remember the time when I bought a homeless man and woman a sandwich, chips and a Coke. When the man tasted the Coke, he grimaced. “What is this – diet?” Later on, he pulled out his cell phone, and seemed to be arranging his next meal. I had to laugh, for I am like that with God sometimes. There will be times when people will take advantage of us. Still, Jesus has told us to go the extra mile. Do good to others, who cannot do good to you. We should never expect any return if we are being truly generous.
• Watch out for pride. Don’t pat yourself on the back, or look for praise. You will have already received your reward.

 In this initial exercise, get in touch with the real truth concerning your practice of generosity. How do you show generosity in your life? Do you do things expecting a return? Do you really let go and experience the joy of giving, or is there an attachment that remains that causes sadness? How frequent are your acts of generosity? Is there a flow of generosity coming from you? What blocks the flow? Is there fear? A love of money or things? Is there a lack of trust in God that God will provide for you? End the exercise by reading Matthew 6:19-34.

• Choose to be generous with the gift of your time, money, or abilities and do something today, even immediately after reading this. Give to the poor. Donate your time. Go the extra mile for someone in your life who already is demanding much of you. We will never grow in generosity if we do not practice it.
• Choose any of the following passages and meditate on them. Dive in and enjoy the swim! Read Mark 6:34-44; Luke 6:38; 2 Cor 8:2-21; 2 Cor 9:5-15; Ps 112.
• Concluding prayer: Lord, everything I have is a gift from you. Help me to make a generous offering of all that I am, and all that I have back to you. Give me the grace to say “yes” to you, whatever you may ask. May I discover joy in sacrificial giving and look at each moment of the day as a gift from you that opens up many opportunities to be generous in return. Let your river of generous love flow through me to others. I ask this in the name of Jesus my Lord. Amen.

– Father Bill Ashbaugh

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