Written by Kristen Dunbar
Mother Teresa said, “Give, but give until it hurts.” The gift of giving. What does that look like in our lives today? Perhaps it depends on our current season, circumstances, financial status, or convictions. If all we have is a gift from God (James 1:17)...then what does it mean to GIVE?
For our Blessed Mother, to give meant her very life--her YES. Her giving required sacrifice. Her giving required losing. The word, sacrifice, can be described as an act of worshipping God by giving him a gift. Mary literally made her life an offering, a sacrifice, a gift. In return, we received the greatest gift--the gift of her Son.
One week ago, on September 15, the Church celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Through the seven most sorrowful moments of Mary’s life (Prophecy of Simeon; flight into Egypt; losing Jesus in the Temple; meeting Jesus on the way to the cross; Jesus’ crucifixion; taking Jesus down from the cross; burying Jesus), we are able to witness the cost of true giving as Mary entrusted her life to God.
In a recent homily, Father Michael challenged the congregation to reflect on an all too common phrase: “What’s in it for me?” Sometimes, giving our “yes,” is going to involve a sacrifice, and it may very well involve suffering and the loss of something. The loss of ourselves, our desires, our will...sometimes our possessions and even people we love. However, in this giving of ourselves, this losing of ourselves, this offering of ourselves, we are able to gain so much more than we could ever imagine or comprehend. If we “give until it hurts,” then we are probably going to suffer here on earth, just like Mary did. Yet, the gain of that reward cannot be counted as a cost.
At Mass, an offering is made in preparation for the sacrifice to be made on the altar. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the greatest sacrifice - JESUS - is offered for us. As bread and wine are presented as the “work of human hands,” we present ourselves as an offering of surrender. We tangibly give alms to the collection as an expression of this surrender, this symbolic offering of our lives. In this moment, we unite the sacrifices of our lives to the sacrifice of Jesus’ life. We lay the gift of “God’s creations,” as well as the gift of our lives on the altar. And we don’t just do this for ourselves...we do this for the good of all. This very act of giving is an act of worship. There is no greater gift!
In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “From the very beginning, Christians have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need.” (CCC 1351, emphasis mine). As we are gathered together in Eucharistic celebration, we offer ourselves to God AND to one another. We are not in this alone! We ask God to change the gifts, and we ask God to change us.
What might we be able to offer? What is God asking us give? How is He calling us to sacrifice and to lose for the sake of the Kingdom? The gift of ourselves is never easy. It’s going to hurt. Perhaps it will be a daily death--practicing patience with those we most struggle, small acts of kindness for others, unplugging and living in the present moment, attending mass every Sunday, aiming for daily prayer, committing to a weekly Holy Hour, giving up personal time to be involved in the parish, trusting that God will take care of it all.
God will take the little we offer and increase it exponentially. He just needs our “yes.” He needs our commitment. He needs our desire to put Him FIRST in order to practice this bold leap of faith. If we believe, as St. James said, “all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17), then we are free to give.
Could the Blessed Mother have been frightened after her fiat? After all, we can clearly see the suffering she experienced through the very act of giving her body back to God as an offering. Yet, with surrender, there are no “take backs.” The gift of her life became her gift to God. Her giving. Her offering. Her life, her entirety. Her salvation. Our salvation.
Thank goodness she didn’t ask, “What’s in it for me?”
Making our lives an offering. Giving in order to receive--to receive God’s deepest desires for our lives. Giving--until it hurts.