How do you spend your morning money? This question is at the heart of the Office of Readings from the church’s Liturgy of the Hours. Each day, a passage from the Scriptures is read and a reading from one of the Saints as a reflection on that reading. Today, we read about St Paul appealing the Corinthians to take up a collection to help the needy. Even back then, it appears, people didn’t like collections, first or second!!!
Paul preaches that they become “cheerful givers” in response to the poor and helpless. But it is the second reading, in response to St. Paul’s reading from Corinthians, by St Basil the Great, who lived in the fourth century. Basil was a man of deep prayer and founded monastic communities in the East. In his writing from today’s reading, Basil questions how we spend our money, asking if we waste our money on extravagant forms of entertainment and costly games of contests between men and beast.
One thousand seven hundred years ago people were spending... “wasting!?!?”... their money on entertainment and sports!!!!!!!! Does this not sound familiar? Basil is trying to teach his readers, US, today, the rich value of spending money on helping people, or, spending money to make the world a better place. Yes, it can be argued that sports and entertainment in many forms makes our world richer in culture. But the “price of admissions” can be afforded mainly by people who have lots of money to spend, and won’t feel the pinch over a $100 baseball ticket or ticket to the opera.
So much money is wasted but individuals and communities when the poor or powerless are not considered. We complain about the many “second collections, ” which are totally voluntary, and even the first ones, which are also voluntary. We don’t like giving to churches but have no problem spending countless dollars on clothes and endless items that collect dust. Oftentimes, the people who complain the most are the comfortable or those who just like to complain about the church and use its many scandals to justify their attitudes.
Basil teaches the joy in helping the poor and hungry... how much is returned one hundred fold to those who are generous. The countless volunteers who “give” of the previous treasure of time is inspiring and beautiful. The untold numbers of parishioners who don’t earmark contributions but who give to help pay the bills, maintain the buildings, without which we would have no programs, and support a staff is unbelievable!!! While their generosity may not be going directly to the poor, their generosity makes outreach to the poor possible; they are strengthening the Mission of the parish.
I also believe God looks kindly upon the individual who simply donates to the collection, the larger “pot” so to speak, trusting the money will be used for the entire operation. The humility of our parishioners, who give in so many ways, is what makes the foundation of the parish strong and life giving.