Dean Martin echoed a basic truth in his signature song, “Everybody Loves Somebody.” Love’s reach extends beyond song and art into religion. Jesus, whose life is our greatest lesson about love, identified love as the path to salvation. Love goes beyond well-wishing to action, the “laying down” of life. Jesus saved us through giving. He gave us himself.
We’ve all experienced the joy of giving, the excitement of presenting an unsolicited gift or a particularly generous one. We enjoy witnessing the joy our gift brings. Parents experience this when they give to young children. We all experience it when we give to a friend, a neighbor, a charity, a stranger.
However, the warm feeling that accompanies giving is the least important part of the experience. The truth is we need to give because we grow by giving. The world would have us believe that we grow by getting: the more I have, the more I am. In this view, persons are defined by things. Personal possessions count more than personal qualities, like character and virtue. But a fast car or a flashy cellphone is a poor means of self-expression. In order to express ourselves, we need to share our uniqueness with others, to create and to give.
Giving allows us to grow socially. We need relationships and relationships are enriched by giving.
Giving helps us to understand the true purpose of our possessions. We should own things in order to increase our ability to serve others. Do our possessions also extend our ability to love? If they are shared with others,they can.
We sometimes hold back our giving because of fear. If I volunteer my time and donate my money, will I have enough left for me? Am I willing to risk sacrifice? Giving and sacrifice strengthen relationships. And when we give, we strengthen the community. As St. Paul says, “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
We all have a need to give – a need to love “somebody sometime.” Because God loved us first, he has given us abundant life and a unique combination of gifts. Through our baptism, Jesus calls us to join his mission of salvation, and our gifts are tools which contribute to that mission. When we give, we obey the first commandment, we practice the greatest virtue, and we reveal ourselves as Christian stewards.
Adapted from an article by Rev. Jon Thomas, Parochial Vicar, Christ Our Light Parish, Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
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