When I think about generosity, I think about my mom
A Reflection for Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” (2 Cor 9:6)
When I graduated from high school, I had an exit interview with my head of school. After a nice chat about the highs and lows of the last four years, she said something to me that I’ve thought about many times since: “Your mom is one of my personal heroes.”
I remember thinking that was very nice and moving right along with my day.
Like a lot of kids, I took my mom’s sacrifices for granted because they were so normal to me. As a young adult, however, I have no choice but to face up to the honest truth: My mom earned the hero title, many times over. For most of my childhood, she worked two jobs. She raised two girls. She drove us to each and every corner of the state of Massachusetts for school, extracurricular activities and social events. I could go on and on, but you know what I mean, because you probably know someone who made your daily life possible in quite a similar way.
In today’s first reading, Paul is very clear about the benefits of generosity, not just for the common good but for the one who is generous. The message of his entire letter to the Corinthians is about as clear-cut as can be: What you give, you’ll get back. If you give a little, you’ll get a little. If you give a lot, you’ll get a lot.
The foundation of generosity is love.
If you’re like me, that might feel way too simple to be true. You might read the rest of Paul’s letter patiently waiting for the qualification, for the details of when, where and how the generous among us will claim their reward. But Paul marches along without complication. He continues to insist on a clear and simple truth: Give generously to others, and God will give you everything you need.
I think this statement feels too simple to be true because we all know people like my mom, and because we know that they don’t give because they expect to receive anything in return. My mom didn’t drive me to the ends of the earth all my life because she read 2 Corinthians and thought “Aha! A reward awaits me for all my sacrifices.” And much of the time, her sacrifices must have felt like just that: sacrifices. What she got in return for seemingly boundless generosity might have at first appeared to be nothing but exhaustion and a whole lot of miles on the car.
But the subtext to Paul’s message is this: The foundation of generosity is love. Our parents, friends and neighbors give so much of themselves to us out of love. And love multiplies. The love my mom showed me bears fruit in my own life, through a love that I can pass along to the people I encounter every day—and back to the one who gave it to me in the first place.