This morning’s first reading from the Book of Sirach (35:1-12) sounds like an ad for “sacrificial giving” in church. It is talking about paying homage to the Lord but goes beyond tithing, which ought to be accomplished in a spirit of joy. Expansion of the theme of actual donation is also implied in such language as: in generous spirit…be not sparing of freewill gifts and Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means. Upon reading this I was thrown back to a song that we used to sing during our novitiate days that began: God loves a cheerful giver; give it all you’ve got! (great emphasis on the second part – sort of like a football fight song, gestures and all). Certainly, we were not singing about monetary contributions to the Church but rather the attitude with which we lived our lives.
Serendipitously, today is the feast of St. Philip Neri who lived in the 1500’s, a tumultuous time for the Christian Church. A summary comment from the website http://www.americancatholic.org offers the following:
Many people feel that such an attractive and jocular personality as Philip’s cannot be combined with intense spirituality. Philip’s life melts our rigid, narrow views of piety. His approach to sanctity was truly catholic, all-embracing and accompanied by a good laugh. Philip always wanted his followers to become not less but more human through their striving for holiness.
So, if they’re not already part of your spiritual backpack, it sounds like a good idea today to add smiling, singing and considering those you meet as friends just waiting to be found, with whom the lightness of life can dispel some of the heaviness of the world.