Christian Love: Giving in sacrifice
In this extract of his homily at a recent Catholic Foundation Mission Mass, Msgr Philip Heng explains the need to take every opportunity we can to do good. He emphasises the importance of not just giving, but giving sacrificially.
Msgr Philip Heng giving his homily to the faithful during the Catholic Foundation Mission Mass at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.
Photo: VITA Images
The account of Jesus healing on the Sabbath is one of seven stories found in all the four Gospels. Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, and there in the midst of them was a man with a withere hand. The Pharisees and the scribes were watching to see what Jesus would do to this man. They were hoping to find some evidence they could use against Jesus.
Jesus, knowing their thoughts, challenged them with a very basic question: Was it against the Sabbath Law to do good or to do evil, to save life or destroy life? Jesus then healed the man. In doing so, Jesus was challenging the interpretation and application of the Sabbath Law by the Pharisees and the scribes.
Always time to do good
For Jesus, it was not considered ‘work’ to heal a person. For Jesus, there is always time to do good, and there is no time where we can refuse to do good or to love someone. The Gospel that Jesus proclaimed was about a God of life, and we who are his disciples are called to be life-giving. But being narrow-minded and rigid in their interpretation, the Pharisees and the scribes were furious at Jesus.
If we reflect on our daily life, we are constantly challenged from morning to night. It is an ongoing consciousness of whether we are doing good and loving others, or are self-centred and selfish in our actions. We are called to be disciples of Jesus and to always do good and love as Jesus has shown us.
However, at the same time there is a certain resistance in our heart – a self-centred need for the basics like comfort, or wanting to be appreciated and affirmed. In many ways, this is very human. transcending our needs.
Still, as Christians, we are not merely called to do good, but to also be more like Christ. We are challenged to transcend our own needs, to see the greater need of others and therefore become more like Christ, to be that selfless person who is willing to make that sacrificial act, as Jesus has done.
It is so easy to justify and give ourselves excuses for not accepting His invitation to be more like him. It is also very easy to tame the voices of our conscience, and to convince ourselves that it is okay not to love. “We are only human. We have our own needs. We need to provide for our future. We need to have time to rest. We need to have free time to exercise…” The list will never end. Jesus wants us to be human, but Jesus also wants us to be disciples who mirror the Christ-like selfless love that is ultimately shown in the powerful, divine symbol of Him hanging and dying on the cross.
When we give, we are actually loving. But as disciples, when we give sacrificially, we are able to experience a deeper love. We die to ourselves for the greater good of others, and more importantly, for the deeper love of Jesus.
God’s gifts to be shared
There is a wrong perception that when we give, we have less. The Christian view, however, is that we can only experience “more” when we give. What we retain and keep for ourselves will be lost forever. The graces and abundant blessings that God has given us, in so many ways, are not solely for ourselves. They are meant to be shared.
It is the secular society that has distorted the meaning of giving. The secular society says that when we give, we lose. The secular world questions, “What’s in it for me if I give?” Such self-centred ways of “giving” are not really giving. That is just thinking about oneself.
All the gifts that God has given us are meant to be shared with the community and for the needs of others. If they are not used for that foundational purpose, then we are not living the Gospel that Jesus proclaims.
Unless we ourselves experience giving with sacrificial love, we will never experience how beautiful and profound God’s love is in our hearts. Such giving is not limited to the giving of resources, but of your time and service too.
Giving with sacrificial love is about making an offering to God cheerfully and willingly, out of substance and not abundance. It is giving made as an expression of love for God and for others and in the acknowledgement by the giver that all blessings received by him or her have come from God.
St Paul spoke about witnessing sacrificial giving in the churches of Macedonia: “Throughout continual ordeals of hardship, their unfailing\ joy and their intense poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. I can testify that it was of their own accord that they made their gift, which was not merely as far as their resources would allow, but well beyond their resources.” (2 Cor 8:2-3)
In Christianity, giving is truly the experience of sacrifice brought out by love. It is profound, makes us more humane, and connects us more with God and the community and people in need. And at the centre of it, we see Jesus on the cross.