Sunday, August 03, 2014

What You Have Increases As You GIVE

(Eighteenth Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on August 3, 2014 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Matthew 14: 13-21.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Fourteenth Sunday 2014]

 What you have increases as you give.

What you have increases as you take.

The first of those two statements is always true spiritually, and sometimes it’s even true materially.

The second is always true materially, but it’s rarely true spiritually.

I hope you were able to follow all that!

The second (“What you have increases as you take”) is the principle by which many people (perhaps even most people) live their lives in our materialistic world.

The first (“What you have increases as you give”) is the principle by which true followers of Jesus Christ try to live their lives in the very same materialistic world. 

This timeless Christian truth about giving is something we see illustrated beautifully in the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish that we heard in today’s gospel reading from Matthew, chapter 14.

Here the disciples present Jesus with five loaves and two fishes, and they tell him that this is all they have to feed a crowd of more than 5,000 people.  But St. John in his account of the story tells us that the disciples actually obtained these loaves and fish from a little boy who happened to be there that day.

This little boy gave what he could---he gave the little that he had to give—and two good things happened to him.  First of all, he got more food to eat himself!  He came to Jesus with two fish that he probably intended to eat that evening.  But for all we know this boy might have been extremely hungry and he might have wanted to eat four or five fish!  Well, once Jesus worked his miracle, he could have as many fish as he wanted!

And he did have as many fish—and loaves—as he desired.  So did everyone else!  We know that because at the very end of the story we are told that they all ate “and were satisfied.”

So this boy definitely experienced a material blessing.

But, even more importantly, he was blessed spiritually through his act of giving.

Let me make that clear to you by asking this question: What do you think happened to this little boy’s faith as he watched Jesus perform this miracle?  He knew what Jesus had started out with, and he saw that very small amount of food multiply right before his eyes!

That must have sent his personal faith into the stratosphere!

That must have increased his personal faith a hundredfold!

Whatever faith he already had increased as he gave—as did the amount of food that was available to him, personally, for supper!

So he experienced a blessing on the spiritual level (which always happens when we give our time or talent or treasure to God or to others with the right disposition of heart); and he also received the added bonus of a material blessing (which sometimes happens when we give).

I was moved to preach this message in my homily this Sunday because of two recent events here at St. Pius.  The first was the Steubenville East Youth Conference that occurred two weekends ago at U.R.I.

Each year that conference helps young people from Westerly and Pawcatuck (and many other places) to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ: an encounter that often transforms their lives and either gets them on (or keeps them on) the road to heaven.

We’ve published some of the personal testimonies of the teens from our group in the bulletin each of the last two Sundays. 

Here’s what one of them said after the weekend.  Happily this person’s experience is quite typical:

“Receiving the Eucharist at Mass and during adoration is the most intimate encounter with God. Each time I come to Steubenville I strengthen my relationship with God. This year, I realized how much I love adoration. I learned to appreciate each aspect of the Mass. This year has been one of the toughest years of my life and that’s when I lost touch with God. I need Him now more than ever. I think after Steubenville everyone should set goals for themselves. My main goals are to attend adoration at least once a week, go to confession once a month, and find more time to pray. Each Steubenville conference I attend I learn something new about my faith. Steubenville shouldn’t end on Sunday. It should be a beginning…”

That’s the transforming power of Steubenville East.

But the only reason our teens are able to participate in this event at all is because so many people around them are willing to “give”: their parents; the adults who give of their time to be chaperones (and who usually pay their own way for the retreat); the generous people of this parish—and beyond this parish—who donate the tee shirts and who help those teenagers who need financial assistance; the Knights of Columbus who help us with fundraisers; and those who pray and offer special sacrifices for the success of the weekend.

Many individuals share their time and/or their talent and/or their treasure to make this experience a positive one for our young people—and in the process (whether they realize it or not) they, as well as our teenagers, are blessed by God.

And that’s the point I want to emphasize here.

Now some of them might not understand that fact until they get to heaven.  There God will show them exactly how their Steubenville “giving” helped to bring many young people to Christ and to eternal salvation.

Then he’ll proceed to give them a higher place in his kingdom because of their generosity.

That’s because in the Christian life what you have increases as you give.

The same principle I believe applies to many of the men and women who gave so generously to the special collection we had last Sunday for the fire alarm and emergency lighting system here in our church.

That was the second “recent event” that led me to preach on this particular topic this weekend.

In all honesty, I must tell you that I was overwhelmed by the incredibly positive response to this need.  I’ll probably have a final total for you next Sunday.  I don’t have one now because donations, thankfully, are still trickling in.

It’s obvious to me that many of our parishioners—and even a few who are not parishioners!—made a great sacrifice in giving what they gave.

They will be rewarded materially (as we all will) with a safer building in which to worship our God.  And that’s great.

But even more importantly, they will be rewarded spiritually on the Day of Judgment—and ETERNALLY thereafter.

Once again, that’s because what you have increases as you give.

This truth, by the way, doesn’t just apply to donations of time, talent and treasure.

I need to mention that before I close this morning.

It also applies to realities like love and mercy and forgiveness.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.”  In other words, “If you want to experience more mercy yourself, then show mercy—give mercy—to other people.”

Jesus said, “Forgive and you will be forgiven.”  That is to say, “If you want to be forgiven for your own sins, give forgiveness to the people who have sinned against you.”

“Give and it will be given back to you.”

Those simple words of Jesus express a principle that we encounter, in one form or another, throughout the Bible—not just in the miracle of the loaves and fish.

So obviously it’s extremely important.

May God help us all to be faithful to that principle by being good “givers,” today and every day.