Reflection for Saturday, November 5, 2016: 31st Week in Ordinary Time.
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In the first reading in Paul's letter to the Philippians, Paul is making an appeal for steadfastness and unity in the Christian community in Philippi. In Chapter 4, he specifically thanks the Philippians for their gifts of Christian unity, which they expressed in their concern for him by sending him supplies to meet his needs. It is important to read here, that in his thankfulness, Paul stresses that as Christians the Philippians will receive more from their giving than did Paul in his receiving. Meeting his needs with gifts was not about him, he tells them, but about making an acceptable sacrifice to God. Paul makes it clear that he had learned to be self-sufficient. He does not want them to think that his relationship with them is maintained for the purpose of receiving gifts from them. Paul establishes a relationship with the Philippians that is about his encouragement to them and their encouragement to him. This is a beautiful lesson, I think, about the beauty of the Christian community. |In this passage, I read that Paul makes it very clear Christian community is something different from a mutual aid society. It isn't just about material exchanges of goods and services in times of need. It is about the sharing of spiritual gifts. It is the act of giving, not the gifts, that Paul encourages here. The act of giving is a gift of sacrifice to God, not just a sharing of material things with those in need. The Christian community is more than just social solidarity, it is unity of the spirit in which God repays us for our generosity with more than material riches…..but with the riches in Christ Jesus. When we give, we give to God and when we receive, we receive from God. |We see this sentiment again in the Psalm for today. The Lord blesses those who are gracious and who lend with justice. The Lord blesses those who give lavishly to the poor because they fear the Lord, not because they want to impress others or seek glory. And again in the Gospel, we are reminded that nothing material on this earth is given to us to generate wealth, but is entrusted to us for our use in serving God. We should not seek success on this earth in terms of justification in the sight of others. True wealth is not money, but what is in our hearts. |As I reflect on these lessons, I consider what it means to give gifts of material goods to others. If we give them in hopes that we will receive material gifts in return, we have shallow relationships in which no one will ever know what is in our hearts. Of course God knows what is in our hearts. If we give gifts to others that encourage them in their spiritual steadfastness and unity in Christian community life, God will be pleased with our acceptable sacrifice and we will be blessed. If our gifts are received in the same spirit of unity, we are both blessed. I wonder, could our Christmas gift giving be acceptable sacrifices to God? Could we give each other gifts of encouragement for greater steadfastness and unity in Christian community?
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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