Are we giving of ourselves and our material goods without expectation of return? Are we meeting people where they are at or making them come to us?
Generous donors help change the lives of thousands of students and families throughout greater Boston through their support of the Catholic Schools Foundation. Each one gives for their own reason, and if I am being honest, I am less concerned about their motivation than the outcome of their support. Each donor matters, makes a difference, and is appreciated.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving and enter into Advent, it is a great time to reflect on the story of the widow's mite from the Gospels of Mark and Luke and our own motivation for giving. This was the Gospel proclaimed just a few weeks back, and the timing is perfect as we embark on the holiday season.
"Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury" (Mk 12:42). These are Jesus's words to his disciples upon witnessing the generosity of the widow. Reflecting on them, how much is this about the widow and how much is it about the Scribes who "for the sake of appearance say long prayers" (Mk12:40).
It is always great to have a positive example, and the widow is an example of humble generosity worthy of emulation. But what about these Scribes? In an honest moment, should the comparison and reflection be on the admonition of the Scribes instead of the extraordinary positive example of the widow?
It is easy to see the beauty and example of the widow. We all want to see ourselves as that person, giving and not counting the cost, being the cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7), and not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing and doing so in secret (Mt 6:3).
This is a good time to ask ourselves, are we giving with sincerity or because it is expected? Are we really giving freely, or are we putting restrictions and expectations on our gifts? If the tax laws weren't favorable, would we stop giving?
Beyond material giving, are we living with a generous heart? Are we responding to Jesus's radical call that "Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another" (John 13:34). Do we do this without condition? Do we let rules or appearance get in the way?
Some of us will gather with dozens of family members and friends over this holiday season; others of us will be alone for each moment. Everyone will experience the holidays differently, but we will all be challenged to reflect on the coming of Christ and his call to love.
Regardless of our current circumstance, whether we are like the scribe or the widow in the Gospel, whether we are a daily communicant or maybe have missed Mass a few times this year, we are all challenged to love. We are challenged to have a grateful heart and to reflect on why we give or don't give. Are we giving of ourselves and our material goods without expectation of return? Are we meeting people where they are at or making them come to us?
In our Catholic Schools, principals and teachers give of themselves each day, meeting students and families where they are, loving unconditionally and truly changing the lives of young people. Young people, who early on are learning they are known and loved by God and have an obligation to their neighbor. Many of them are able to attend a Catholic school thanks to the support of donors to the Catholic Schools Foundation.
As we continue through the holiday season, we at the Catholic Schools Foundation do so with gratitude to all who make Catholic education possible.
Catholic education changes lives.
- Michael B. Reardon is executive director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, www.CSFBoston.org.