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December 1977

God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor. 9:7)

Naturally speaking we all like a man who is cheerful; he spreads happiness and will always get back something, maybe more than he gave away, for friendship and love are things which money cannot buy. God, who has created these good instincts in man naturally outdoes us in generosity as the word of life implies.

Paul writing these words does not do so from abstract theories but from his own experience of living. He grows ecstatic at the extent of God's love for the cheerful giver: "... God loves a cheerful giver. God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you always have enough of everything." (2 Cor. 9:7-8).

In other words the reaction of a man to another who gives cheerfully is to respond in kind, and this is really a reflection of God, who far outdoes us in generosity. Giving tends to communion, and both these are aspects of God, who is all gift and all communion. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit give themselves to each other, and yet God is absolutely One in his essence, his omnipotence, in his knowledge, in his will and in his love: He Who Is as he revealed to Moses.

A person is fully himself only when God's life is completely manifested in him; and as God is communion, the person must find himself in common with God in himself and God in others. This is the point of the important step we Christians are called to make-to put our living in common. All of us know we must love our neighbour, hold life in common with him at least if he be in need. But the extent can vary. The early Christians for instance held everything in common, and today there are also Christians who have decided to live in the same way, not simply in religious orders where such a style of life is written into the rule, but among ordinary folk who would not give the impression of having taken vows. We have realised the logic of our choice of God which is to live the new commandment: our whole lives, including any spiritual gifts or material ones must be for each other as we have decided to love each other as Jesus has loved us.

At this point it is "easy" to be a cheerful giver for we do so only by gift of God who has called us to himself. But Paul's experience may be ours too even if it has cost us to give. God loves us, showering on us h-is hundredfold gifts and more, material and spiritual. For example we find we don't have a few brothers and sisters, but hundreds; not a single home to welcome us but many. Sharing material gifts, that which God has given us to use well in this life, and spiritual gifts, which means the way God has been operating in us, we not only enrich each other spiritually and materially, but Jesus is present among us; and when that is the case, nothing is lacking. But the fruits do not come until and unless the seed dies in the ground; until I give myself totally and without reserve to God, my mind and all its ideas, my heart and all its affections, my strength and all it has done, with no doubts, reserves or self-pitying.

Some practical ways of giving ourselves, as there are no limits to whom we must love, and the one we must give to above all is he who is next to me at any moment: we must give our time-resist the temptation which says I must go and do such and such now, for very few things are a must: also sleep sometimes, money sometimes, or a kind word; or we may give in a ' self-denying- way, dying to our passions of anger, hatred, lusts, every form of self-centredness.

The important thing is simply to give, to love in other words, and the strength to do so may come, if we want. by remaining always in communion with others, one body, an explicit and conscious expression of the Body of Christ.

Jonathan Cotton, O.S.B.

 

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