"We want you to know, brothers and sisters, of the grace of God
that has been given to the churches of Macedonia,
for in a severe test of affliction,
the abundance of their joy and their profound poverty
overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
For according to their means, I can testify,
and beyond their means, spontaneously,
they begged us insistently for the favor of taking part
in the service to the holy ones,
and this, not as we expected,
but they gave themselves first to the Lord
and to us through the will of God..."
-2 Corinthians 8:1-5
Here, St. Paul is commending the Christians of Macedonia for their charity in coming to the aid of the Church in Jerusalem. Note what he commends them for:
- Joy and Poverty - we've all heard the expression that if we don't ever want to be disappointed, we should be pessimists. This is, in fact, a pessimistic twist on a solid Christian principle. True joy, which is never disappointed, is based on poverty of spirit. When we are honest with ourselves, humble and detached from the world of our desires, we begin to realize what we truly deserve. This poverty of spirit, a willingness to accept that we are dust and unto dust shall return, is the key to Christian joy. Only by accepting this can we be filled with an awareness of how much God has given us, a true sense of joy in Christ. This is the opposite of worldy happiness, which we are told comes through asserting our desires and our rights to them.
- Overflowing Generosity - only a joy flowing from poverty of spirit could produce overflowing generosity. Notice that the Macedonians' poverty is not financial. They have the means to be generous, although certainly they are more generous in their prayers. Their joy fuels their generosity, and so their poverty makes them more giving: "I am but dust, and yet God has given me so much. How can I help but to share it with those around me, even with my enemies?"
- Service Beyond Their Means - the Macedonians even served. They did not stop at throwing a couple drachmas in the collection plate. They didn't just pray. They submitted themselves in service, and even beyond their means at that! With God, we are capable of giving more than we know. They even begged for the opportunity. That truly is generosity. These folks really and truly wanted to be faithful Christians.
- Orderliness According to the Will of God - they did not serve God second, they served Him first, and even after serving Him, they served others through the will of God. There is no conflict between serving God and serving others, loving God and loving others, spending time with God and spending time with others, if our serving others, loving others, and spending time with others is the holy will of God. Now God wills that we give ourselves directly to Him in certain ways, first among them the Holy Mass, but for each man, other obligations and devotions vary according to His will. Let us seek to know His will!
- Spontaneity - what else did we think He meant when our Savior said that the Spirit moves as He wills, like the wind? The Holy Spirit is no hippie, but He and His will do sometimes seem to us to shift around a bit. As Fiat Men, we must be willing anywhere and everywhere to seek His Holy Will, to follow it with spontaneity, with generous service flowing from the joy of spiritual poverty.
So, let's try to discover spiritual poverty, Christian joy, and spontaneity! I know I've got some praying to do!