Over the weekend, the city of Edmonton celebrated its annual heritage festival. Over the span of a few days, the many cultures of the people who live here are on display through the sharing of food and offering of entertainment. The peoples here are rightly proud of their heritages and only too glad to share them with others.
One can also speak of a Christian heritage, one that both transcends and embraces all cultures. It is multi-faceted, to be sure. One aspect of that heritage is the tradition of making a daily offering of oneself to God, an act of faith and thanksgiving offered in recognition of the fact that all that we are and have is his gift. A prayer expressive of this self-gift to God is that of Saint Ignatius of Loyola:
Receive, Lord, my entire freedom.
Accept the whole of my memory,
My intellect and my will.
Whatever I have or possess,
It was you who gave it to me;
I restore it to you in full,
And I surrender it completely
To the guidance of your will.
Give me only love of you
Together with your grace,
And I am rich enough
And ask for nothing more.
“Rich enough.” This puts me in mind of the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel narrative of last Sunday (Luke 12:13-21), wherein he states that life does not consist in possessions. True wealth is not a matter of how much we accumulate by our own efforts but is measured by the love freely poured into our hearts by God, who does not fail to provide us with all that we truly need. In that love, we are “rich enough.”
Recognition of this truth brings with it real freedom. Believing that self-worth is measured in terms of possessions gives rise to greed and envy. This, in turn, renders me captive to the endless pursuit of goods and a burning envy toward others who have what I want. Jesus rather forcefully points out how myopic this is. “Fool!” he says of the one who builds ever bigger barns to house an increasing collection of stuff and mistakenly feels that he can rest worry-free because of his possessions. Whose will it all be when you die? Of what good will it be to you then? (I’m reminded of a homily years ago in which a priest said that he had yet to see a hearse with a U-Haul behind it.)
The point being made is that life here on earth is to be lived with a view to heaven, not the balance sheet. To be “rich towards God” is our ultimate concern. Such riches are ours not through accumulation but charity, not by amassing and hoarding what we do not truly need but by attending with vigilance to the needs of the poor and freely sharing with them.
This makes the act of self-offering very concrete. We return to God what he has given us by offering it to people in need and/or in support of the mission of the Church or other agencies of charity dedicated to their service.
The Christian heritage of charity needs to be on display not only a few days each year but always. May the Lord grant us the grace to know that, in His love, we are “rich enough” and thus free us to make of ourselves a gift both to Him and to others.