Monday, November 26, 2012

Caritas for Children

I had one of those "coincidences" that is really a "God-incident" today. 

The Second Reading in the Divine Office today was from a sermon of St. Leo the Great, one of my favorite contributors to the Church's prayer book.  Here are some excerpts that particularly:

"What the Lord says is very true: Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. What is a man's treasure but the heaping up of profits and the fruit of his toil. For whatever a man sows this too will he reap.... Now there are many kinds of wealth and a variety of grounds for rejoicing; every man's treasure is that which he desires. If it is based on earthly ambitions, its acquisition makes men not blessed but wretched. 

"But those who enjoy the things that are above and eternal rather than earthly and perishable, possess an incorruptible, hidden store of which the prophet speaks: Our treasure and salvation have come, wisdom and instruction and piety from the Lord: these are the treasures of justice. Through these, with the help of God's grace, even earthly possessions are transformed into heavenly blessings; it is a fact that many people use the wealth which is either rightfully left to them or otherwise acquired, as a tool of devotion.  By distributing what might be superfluous to support the poor, they are amassing imperishable riches, so that what they have discreetly given cannot be subject to loss.  They have properly placed those riches where their heart is; it is a most blessed thing to work to increase such riches rather than to fear that they may pass away."

In other words, true wealth is in heaven.  We cannot take material possessions with us when we die, but we can take all that we have given away to those in need.  In that way, wealth becomes, in the words of St. Leo, "a tool of devotion."  It is a means by which we show our love for God by loving the neighbor in need with whom Christ identified himself (see Matthew 25). 

After this morning prayer I had breakfast with Christopher Hoar, the president of Caritas for Children, an organization that helps children in poor countries by lining up benefactors who support their education.  But in giving to these children, the benefactors receive so much more.  Their material contributions become eternal wealth. They also come to realize that they are doing their part in the Church's work of evangelization.  My breakfast meeting was a confirmation of St. Leo's words that I'd read when I prayed .

Further confirmation came at Mass when I read today's Gospel--Luke 21:1-4, the story of the Widow's Mite.  Jesus praised the poor widow who gave not from her "surplus wealth" but from her poverty.  In material terms it was less than all the offerings of the wealthy, but in spiritual terms it resembled more closely the offering of Jesus himself.  Jesus held nothing back but gave all.  And so did the poor widow. 

We need prudence and balance when it comes to the use of our resources, but the temptation is to be so careful that we end up trusting in our wealth rather than in God.  Words like today's Gospel and St. Leo's sermon remind us that we need to always ask: Where is my treasure? Where is my heart?

The "God-incidences" of daily life remind us that we have a God who cares and who will use every event of our lives to show that care. 

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