The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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February 2, 2001 Issue
Bishop Banks' Corner

Bishop Robert J. Banks
Bishop Robert J. Banks

Discipleship includes generosity

Scripture shows that Jesus loves and praises the generous disciple

By Bishop Robert Banks

At first it seemed like this column was going to be a waste. It was my intention to write about the Bishop's Appeal which begins this weekend, but almost all the readers of this column presumably make appropriate gifts to the Appeal each year. Writing to you about the Appeal is like preaching to the choir.

But why not presume you are going to make a generous gift, and rather than urge you to do that, let's think about how important that kind of generosity is in the life of someone who loves the Lord. Generosity goes with being a disciple of the Lord the way peanut butter goes with jelly. There is no such thing as an ungenerous disciple. And Jesus really loves and praises the generous disciple.

My favorite Gospel story that proves my point is the one about the woman who "came up to him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil, and poured it on his head while he was reclining at table." The disciples were really upset at this waste, complaining to Jesus that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus said, "Why are you upsetting the woman? What she has done for me is indeed a good work!..Wherever in the world this gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told as well."(Mt 26:6-13). Jesus loves a person who -- out of love for him -- gives with great generosity.

Giving generously

In our advertising or marketing the Bishop's Appeal, we focus on the needs of the Church and all the good that can be done with the funds that are given to the Appeal. And you do get "a lot of bang for your buck" by giving to the Appeal. But the spread of Jesus' Gospel depends more on the donor's eagerness and willingness to give generously than on the amount given.

When Jesus sent out his first 72 messengers to preach the Good News, he told them to take nothing with them -- walking staff, sandals or wallet. They were to go forth, trusting in the Lord and giving themselves as generously as possible. It is that trusting kind of extraordinary generosity that builds the Church.

That trusting kind of generosity is seen first in the ordinary lives of our people -- the faithful love of spouses, the generous love of parents, jobs well done at the office or shop, the generous volunteer work of parishioners, the celibate witness of religious and priests. But the Scriptures also include generous giving from one's wealth and possessions as integral to a disciple's worship and love of God.

Don't turn away

Among the many passages that praise generosity, I especially like Tobit's advice to his son, "Give alms from your possessions. Do not turn your face away from any of the poor, and God's face will not be turned away from you. Son, give alms in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, distribute even some of that. But do not hesitate to give alms; you will be storing up a goodly treasure for yourself against the day of adversity. Almsgiving frees one from death, and keeps one from going into the dark abode. Alms are a worthy offering in the sight of the Most High for all who give them" (Tb 4:7-11).

St. Paul backed giving

St. Paul was a great one for raising money to help the poor. Often when he wrote to one of the early Christian communities, he would have something to say about generosity. To the Christians at Rome, he wrote, "Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality" (Rom 12:11-13).

He spelled out the importance of generosity even more to the Christians at Corinth. "... I am putting your love to the test. You know the generosity of our Lord Jesus Christ: He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that through his poverty you might become rich . If we give eagerly according to our means, that is acceptable to God; he does not ask for what we do not have." (2 Cor 8: 8-12)

There is no need to go through the four Gospels to prove the same point. Perhaps it is enough to quote Jesus' sermon found in Luke's Gospel, "Give, and there will be gifts for you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you"(Lk 6:38).

To sum it all up, God loves a generous giver, and that applies to so many of you.

Generosity of missionaries

I can't leave this subject without calling attention to another kind of generosity shown by our Catholic sisters and brothers who are living under the threat of violence and death in other sections of the world. They have little wealth to share with others, but they hold on to their faith in Jesus at the risk of losing everything, including their lives.

The following are a few of the stories I ran across last night in my reading. In India, a priest was woken in the middle of the night by two men who stabbed him to death. This happened after he had received written warning that he would be killed if he continued his priestly work.

In another section of India, nuns had to close a girls hostel because it had been attacked and one of the cooks had been raped.

Pray for end to violence

In Indonesia, 18 churches and rectories were bombed, some during Midnight Mass. Fourteen people were killed and 118 were wounded. The archbishop in that area asked "all Christians to forgive" and not to retaliate.

Because of the incredible violence in the Moluccan Islands of Indonesia, hundreds of Catholics and Protestants are joining Islam simply to save their families. Hundreds of men have been forcibly circumcised and women have been genitally mutilated.

Let's pray for an end to this religious violence and for the safety of our sisters and brothers in Christ.

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