God will never be outdone in giving
You’re a good Catholic, right? You’re living your faith. You go to Mass on Sundays, have a regular prayer life, and even attend a Bible study at the parish every year. You’re good to go. Except…there are those pesky Scripture readings that come up every once and a while. You know the ones about the consequences of not using your God-given abilities and gifts to further God’s kingdom? They admonish those who don’t engage in ministries and help people in physical or spiritual need. There’s the passage in Matthew’s gospel about the servant who’s punished for not investing his master’s talents to make more (Mt. 25:14-30). There’s also the one that says if you ignore your brothers and sisters in need, you ignore Jesus (Mt. 25: 31-46). Then, there’s today’s gospel, Luke 12:32-48. In this one, the steward who oversees the household while the master is away mistreats his fellow servants while getting drunk and feasting on the master’s food. Not only does he fail to fulfill his responsibilities to run the household and help his fellow servants, he’s a jerk and a thief. The spiritual meaning is we are all stewards of God’s gifts with the responsibility to help others. If we squander our gifts and mistreat those we’re called to serve, there will be consequences. On the other hand, being a faithful servant has blessings. So, why isn’t it enough to just take care of yourself? Why is it necessary for a faithful servant to help others?
Baptism and relationship with Christ bring changes. When the Holy Spirit is active in our lives, we think and behave different. It changes the way we act and the way we react. We think with the mind of God. Our likes and dislikes become more attuned to his. This isn’t just for our own benefit. Ultimately, God forms us for mission. We’re not meant to remain spiritual children. We’re meant to be spiritually mature adults who take responsibility for the upkeep and growth of God’s Kingdom. St. Paul teaches in Ephesians, we are given spiritual gifts to “equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith…and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:12-13). We’re meant for spiritually maturity…the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” That means we cooperate with him in mission. What did Christ come to do? Save souls. In 2 Corinthians St. Paul says, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Cor 5:18-20). As St. Teresa of Avila said “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours…Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.” You are Christ’s ambassador. As a baptized Christian in relationship with Christ, his mission is your mission. This is our baptismal call, to take up Christ’s mission and be his hands and feet in the world.
I know, I know. You’re busy. It’s hard enough finding time to take care of your own spiritual life, now you need to volunteer for a ministry. However, the truth is ministry and service aren’t merely essential to your parish. The parish, and the Church, need your contribution, but it’s more than that. It’s essential for you. I believe it’s impossible to reach spiritual maturity without giving back in some way. Being active in ministry is the natural progression of the Christian life and without it, you will stop growing. I know this from the experience of others, but especially from my own personal experience. When I started working for the Church and regularly exercised my charisms of teaching and evangelizing, my spiritual growth skyrocketed. You see, God is always pouring out graces on us. Once we’re filled, we’re supposed to return God’s grace. How do we do that? By ministering others, handing on his message, and leading people into relationship with him. That’s how he designed the spiritual life. Remember Matthew 25? We serve Christ by serving others in their need, both the physical and the spiritual needs. These are the Works of Mercy.
I’m not saying you should do ministry because the Church needs it (although it does). I’m saying you must do ministry because YOU need it. Do you feel like you’re not getting anything from the Church anymore? Is your spiritual life feeling stale? Is your once strong faith failing? Perhaps you’re not doing enough for others. Perhaps you need to give of yourself in ministry. Once you reach a certain point in the spiritual life, the only way to renew your faith is to give it away. The reason is, if you’re filled up with God but don’t return it to him, your supply dries up. He won’t continue to pour into you if you’re not giving back. It’s a feedback loop. The more you give away, the more he resupplies. So, if you want your faith to be re-energized, share it! Don’t hoard it! God will never be outdone in giving.
Marc Cardaronella is Director of the Office of Catechesis and Faith Formation.