Generosity 101 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
There is a connection between today’s words from the Prophet Isaiah and Jesus’ reminder that we are salt for the earth and light for the world. Isaiah speaks of the sort of fasting that is pleasing to God. God asks, Is this not the sort of fast that pleases me: to break unjust fetters, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free …
We hear about sharing one’s food with the hungry, sheltering the homeless poor, clothing those who are in need, and not turning away from your own kin.” Today’s excerpt concludes, if you deprive yourself for the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, your light will rise in the darkness, and your darkest hour will be like noon.
On a regular basis Jesus says the same thing, both in word and deed. Think of the famous Matthew 25 series of statements: I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was sick and you visited me, and so on.
Today’s Gospel reminds us about the invitation to be salt for the earth and light for the world. Your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven.
We know that it feels good and rewarding to do those things from Matthew 25 or Isaiah. Of course, it’s not for the sake of feeling good that we should do these things. It’s primarily for the sake of the one in need. But, it is an established fact that being kind and generous helps us feel good. As a matter of fact, it is also better for our physical, emotional and spiritual health.
Huffington Post writer Amanda Chan offers seven science-backed reasons why generosity is good for your health. She is speaking of giving of oneself, whether time, energy or money.
- It will keep stress in check. Being stingy is linked with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Some level of stress is good for us, but chronically high levels of stress have been linked to many illnesses.
- Happiness at work depends on it. Studies show that being altruistic not only improves wellbeing at work, but also makes people feel more committed to their work and less likely to quit.
- It’s beneficial to the greater good. Studies show that cooperation and generosity at a team level mean that we are all winners. [I’m reminded of a frequent announcement on the GO Transit system in the GTA. The announcement is encouraging cooperation and works on the fact that major sports teams often play near Union Station. The final line is: We all play on the same team.]
- You’ll enjoy more years of life. [I’m reminded of that study from a few years ago that looked at why women in religious orders lived so long.]
- It keeps the cycle of good Thinking about times you’ve helped others will make you want to help others again.
- Your marriage will be stronger. Generosity to one another has been shown to be one of the key factors for a happy marriage.
- It promotes mental health. Volunteering not only improves well-being and life satisfaction, but it is also linked with decreased depression and a lower risk of dying early.
Chan’s list is pretty basic, almost Generosity 101. It’s a start. Our Christian tradition has so much more to offer. How can you be generous this week? Remember, it’s not ultimately about your feelings and health, but that is certainly an attractive fringe benefit.