The Vocation of a Generous Life: Part 2

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In our last column we explored the vocationally generous life, and what it means to live generously, noting that living generously does not happen when we finally have enough, but rather, happens when we realize that we have God, and God is enough.

Generosity, and living generously, is an important dimension of the vocational life because it is a real-time expression of the eternal generosity of God.

What are some examples of the vocationally generous life? Who can we look to as models of living as though God were enough? We can start with Jesus.

The Gospels abound in accounts of Jesus feeding the multitudes: In Matthew 15 and Mark 8 he feeds four thousand; in Mark 6 and Luke 9 it is five thousand. And in John 6 we find Jesus feeding “a large crowd” of “about five thousand men.” We do not know how many wives and children came along. Jesus demonstrates astonishing generosity, far beyond what we can ever accomplish. Or can we?

Then we have the accounts of Jesus healing people and unshackling them from the bondage of sin. People come in droves, pressing all around him in order to be freed of their physical and spiritual infirmities. Again, feats of healing and mercy beyond what we can ever accomplish. Or can we?

Did Jesus feed everyone, or eliminate for all time the scourge of food insecurity for the poor, the marginalized, the ones who always seem unable to pay? No. He fed a few good sized crowds, and healed a good number of people, and showed us how it’s done.

So how is it done? A generation back, in the depths of the great depression of the 1930s, God put upon the heart of a woman, a single mom, a fervor and a plan to feed the desperately hungry—mostly men—and to give them shelter, clothing, and spiritual encouragement for their lives. This woman possessed no more than those whom she served, so her vocational generosity was not coming from some hidden “nest egg” or financial reserves. Her generosity flowed directly from her anointing to follow Jesus and to take his words at face value. And so Dorothy Day launched the Catholic Worker movement, which continues today.

Oftentimes young children lead the way in vocational generosity. I recall the story of the ten-year-old boy who told his mom that for his birthday he did not want gifts. He wanted his buddies to come to his party with bags of nonperishable food for the local food pantry. How cool is that? his friends thought. So they in turn took up the practice.

And when it comes to Jesus’ work of healing, of forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation, last year I met a woman whose whole life is dedicated to speaking, writing, and advocating tirelessly across the nation for replacing the death penalty with a sentence of life without parole. The vocational generosity of her response to God’s calling was “multiplied” when two actors brought Sr. Helen Prejean’s work to the silver screen in Dead Man Walking.

Someone has to step forward to be the carrier of God’s generosity—so why not you? In fact, someone already has been anointed to be the carrier of God’s generosity in particular ways—and it is you.

Will you achieve notoriety for your living a vocationally generous life? Maybe, and more likely, maybe not. But notoriety, or lack of it, does not deter God’s fully-pledged commitment to redeeming this world in which you and I live. Every day, and all through the night, the life blood of redeeming grace and goodness, compassion and mercy, forgiveness and healing, feeding and encouraging, pulses through the heart of this world. Not magically as though on its own, but miraculously through the likes of you and me. Jesus has shown us how it is done. Our work is to go and do the same.

Copyright 2012 Mary Sharon Moore, M.T.S.

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