October 23, 2012

MISSION MATTERS: Do You Give in The Same Measure You Receive?

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Ignatius — in teaching, preaching or administrating — always expected, and modeled, more. In prayer and practice, Ignatius called the early Jesuits, and those of us who hope and try to follow him, to a spirit of generosity. A man of his times and Church, Ignatius considered the Holy Spirit of Christianity as the motivating force, not only in one's individual life, but also in our lives together, our communal life. The Spirit unites us as people, as pray-ers, as women and men of whatever faith we profess and practice.

In that spirit then, from the one from whom we receive many gifts, from the one who animates us to many forms of service and from all we are given always for some benefit (and not always our own benefit), we can consider our own response. From that energizing spirit we receive, according to scripture and our own experience, wisdom and knowledge — two different gifts, to be sure. We receive faith, and gifts of healing — physical, emotional and spiritual. We receive the desire and motivation calling us to mighty deeds of service. We receive (often/most often?) through no effort of our own, but freely given to us, the gift to discern the spirits in our own lives — a major Ignatian focus.

The point of all we've been given, though, is not all we've been given, but how we spread our gifts, what we do with our gifts, for whom we use our gifts, all we've received. So that's the question: What do you do with what you've received? Do you give in the same measure you receive? Do we not give as we receive because we fear we will have nothing left for ourselves?

Often so absorbed in our own thing, we can neglect to reflect beyond ourselves, forgetting that it's really not all about ourselves ... We may seldom get beyond our self to consider our opportunity and obligation to selflessness; it seems that we may worry more and more about me and mine and less and less about me and my community, my union, intentional or not, with others with whom I live and work, those I love and try to love, all of us who can support and raise our community (however we define "community"), the common good, the higher purpose, the greater good Ignatius preached and practiced.

The gifts we've received we're not some random seed-scattering distribution, but carefully considered for our benefit, appropriate for us, good for those we touch. The gifts we've received were given for a good purpose, a purpose designed to move us forward. The gifts we've received were given, by the one spirit, to advance us all, to unite us all, calling us to work together, to serve a higher purpose, to get out of ourselves. Those are all good things. But with all the gifts we receive, do we strive to work together for the great good or do we seek only our good. Are we men and women for others or just men and women for ourselves?

Here's the thing: our own questions can consider, as Ignatius taught, how I contribute to the community and the greater good with all the gifts I've received? Do I use my talents, my time and treasure to make positive contributions and commitments to my community, my family, my workplace, to those people I know or don't know, or love or try to love?

Ignatius raised the bar for us:

Prayer for Generosity
Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.
- St. Ignatius Loyola

A. M. D. G.

- P. Stark, S.J.
- D. Highberger, S.J.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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