The gospel passage for tomorrow from Mark 10:17-27 is one of those sections of scripture that always gives me pause. Jesus is setting out on a journey when a man approaches him and poses a big question. “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” he asks. When Jesus responds with a list of the commandments, the man assures Jesus that he’s got all of those bases covered.
The man is probably expecting Jesus to say, “Well, OK then, you’re all set.” But what Jesus says next isn’t so easy–not for the “Rich Man”, and not for us:
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Although most of us likely can’t walk out the door and buy absolutely anything we want, by the standards of our world we are blessed beyond measure. Is Jesus asking all of us to sell all that we have, give it all to the poor and follow him? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
I do want to say, however, that there are many ways for our families to follow Jesus’s teachings to the “Rich Man” with a spirit of love and generosity. Here are a few that come to mind immediately:
#1: Support our Parishes and the Worldwide Church: We Catholics are somewhat notorious for dropping a dollar in the collection basket each Sunday and thinking, “I’m good.” For parents, modeling true stewardship for our children helps them create lifelong habits of generosity. At my sister’s parish in Mississippi, young children are invited to bring their own simple offerings forward to the “pickle jar” during the collection and these are used to support the needy of her parish. Even if such a tradition doesn’t exist in our parish, we can help our children to do simple chores around the house to earn money of their own to donate.
#2: Respond in Times of Great Need, But Also In “Ordinary Time”: All too frequently, disasters strike the poorest of the poor. When this happens, organizations such as Catholic Relief Services are ready to respond immediately, but they need our support. And when disaster strikes, we often remember to give. Even a small donation helps us to feel that we are part of the solution to such devastation. But non-profits such as CRS need our support all year long so that they will be poised to act quickly in disasters, but also because their work on behalf of the Worldwide Church is aimed at helping the poor of our world to lead lives of dignity on an ongoing basis. As the Mission Statement of CRS says:
Catholic Relief Services carries out the commitment of the Bishops of the United States to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas. We are motivated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cherish, preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, foster charity and justice, and embody Catholic social and moral teaching as we act to:
PROMOTE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT by responding to major emergencies, fighting disease and poverty, and nurturing peaceful and just societies; and,
SERVE CATHOLICS IN THE UNITED STATES as they live their faith in solidarity with their brothers and sisters around the world.
As part of the universal mission of the Catholic Church, we work with local, national and international Catholic institutions and structures, as well as other organizations, to assist people on the basis of need, not creed, race or nationality.
Aligning ourselves with organizations such as CRS, making regular giving a line item in our family budgets so that our giving is consistently a priority, enables us to truly “follow” by placing us in solidarity with the poor and needy.
#3: Open Our Eyes and Our Hearts: Jesus asked the Rich Man to follow him. We are asked to do the same. And aren’t we more inclined to follow someone we know and love? So one great gift that we can give our families is the treasure of better knowing Jesus Christ: in scripture, in the sacraments, and in the faces of those around us. We parents must model for our children that Christ-like behavior which challenges us to give up our comfort zones, to see needs around us, and to respond in love and action. Sometimes our “giving” is financial. But often, we must respond by giving of our time and our compassion. When we spot one of these moments–the moments that made the Rich Man walk away sadly in failure–we must seize the chance for a “teachable moment”. This doesn’t mean that we say, “Watch kids, Mommy’s going to be Christ-like now!” But in modeling what a true follower of Christ does, how she acts, and how she serves, we may need to be intentionally didactic with our children.
Opportunities to give generously and to love lavishly come frequently in day-to-day life. Let’s be prepared for them by taking the lessons of Mark 10 to heart. Unlike the Rich Man who walked away from Jesus sadly, let us clasp hands as families, ever prepared to follow Christ wherever he leads us.
A question for you: How do Jesus Christ’s teachings on generosity challenge and motivate you?
Copyright 2016 Lisa M. Hendey