We hear often that we as Christians are called to “give until it hurts” and are often directed to look to the poor widow who gave her last coin as a herald of true generosity. She held nothing back from God, giving until she had nothing left. Yet, as we consider this self-sacrificial type of giving, the hidden truth we are prone to overlook is that our ability to be generous is itself a gift from God.
Our ability to be generous is a reminder of God’s immense generosity toward us. The more we give, the more we are reminded of how much we have and how much we have been given by God. The word “generosity” is derived from the Latin word “generōsus” meaning “of noble birth”. When we act generously, we are reminded of our own nobility as sons and daughters of the King of kings. “Through a sincere gift of ourselves, we find ourselves”: Princes and Princesses in the heavenly kingdom (Saint John Paul II). Moreover, as Saint Therese of Lisieux reminds us, each of the sacrifices we make adds a pearl to our heavenly crowns. What a gift God gives us in each opportunity to give generously of ourselves!
In a unique way, generosity reminds us of our humility and our dignity. In giving, we begin to see ourselves as God sees us. In giving, we see that we have something worth giving! And the gifts we give are not limited to monetary donations, they are as individual as each of us. Our time, our talents, our words, our prayers, are all ways of giving. The saints show us myriad ways of being generous. Saint Edith Stein, intellectual and convert to the Catholic faith, shows us how to be generous to the Lord in study and education. Saint Jeanne Jugan demonstrates how to be generous in hospitality by welcoming others (in her case the elderly poor) into our homes. Saint Monica shows us how to be generous in prayer. Saint Faustina shows us that even the mundane tasks of daily life can be transformed into acts of trust in which God rewards our generosity by turning boiled potatoes into beautiful roses (Notebook I, 26). Above all, Mary showed us how each moment of our lives can be a moment for generosity, just as her “fiat” permeated through every aspect of her life. In our own generosity, we are united with Christ who showed unsurpassable generosity in the gift of Himself on the cross. Being united with Christ in this way is a humbling reminder of our need for the salvation He won for us, and a dignifying reassurance that we are worth dying for!
Generosity is a reminder that we are not above any of our brothers or sisters on earth, we are all beloved sons and daughters of Him! In giving, we are reminded that we are all beneficiaries of God’s generosity. Truly, “it is in giving that we receive” (Saint Francis of Assisi). This is the paradox of generosity; the woman from the Gospels whom we remember as “the poor widow” was actually the richest of all!