Fourth Sunday of Lent -A
(Matthew Kelly, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, pages 109-140)
Chapter 4: The Happiest People I Know
Listen again to these lines from today’s Second Reading, from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians:
“Brothers and sisters: you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord … and Christ will give you light.”
That is the quotation from Scripture. Now, a parable – a story – with those verses in mind:
There was a town on a seacoast that was very concerned about boaters and their safety. So they built a lighthouse, and it was a wonderful lighthouse.
People from that town took turns in groups staffing their lighthouse. And over the years they would remind each other of the people whose lives had been saved, of boats that had been spared an accident, all because of their lighthouse and their vigilance.
This went on for quite some time, and then somebody suggested, “Since we have this beautiful lighthouse, we ought to do something with its interior.” So they installed plush carpeting and lots of very comfortable furniture, and even a fireplace. It was very pleasant place to be on duty.
Then one night the lighthouse beacon went dark.
The people on duty were all inside and they didn’t even notice. And, if the truth be told, they didn’t really care.
Then they decided to change the sign outside. They took down the old one that said “The Lighthouse” and they replaced it with a brand new one that said “Our Clubhouse.”
So much for the story. What about its application?
In life, if we are not careful, our motives can shift from being very sterling to becoming quite tarnished. Our commitment to help our neighbor can slip, and we can let opportunities go by – where once we might have done something, and now we just don’t get around to it. And our love for God can become cooler as time goes by.
We can move from being a lighthouse that looks out for other people and their well-being, to becoming a clubhouse that’s just very cozy and comfy for those inside.
Look at your life and ask: “Am I a lighthouse for others, or am I a comfortable clubhouse for myself?” This is another way of asking: “Am I a generous person or am I selfish?”
This Lent we are studying together Matthew Kelly’s book, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. Each week there is a full page in the bulletin with the reading assignments and questions for discussion. There are still some “Prayer Process” wallet cards in the baskets at the doorways of the church.
We have looked at the first two signs of a Dynamic Catholic: prayer and study.
So today we turn to chapter 4, which is entitled, “The Happiest People I Know.” And it is all about GENEROSITY, the third sign of a Dynamic Catholic.
Matthew Kelly says: The happiest people I know are also the most generous people I know. The world proposes selfishness as the path to happiness. God proposes generosity as the path to happiness. I know many selfish people, but I don’t know any who have a deep and lasting happiness. Do you?
God is generous: He created everything, He sent His Son, He gave us life and opportunities, He gives us our next breath. And so, as we are made in the image and likeness of God, generosity is at the heart of the Christian life.
Our generosity begins with our gratitude. One of the leading indicators of my spiritual health is whether or not I am in a place of gratitude. When we step away from gratitude we become irritable, restless and discontented.
Dynamic Catholics live in a state of gratitude. They have an overwhelming sense that their lives have been blessed. They know the meaning of the saying: “God promises that He will provide for our needs, but not for our greed.”
The world draws us into a conversation about all that we don’t have. God invites us into a conversation about all that we do have.
Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do. We are at our best when we are grateful for all of the blessings that we now have.
When we speak about generosity at church, we usually do so in the context of stewardship, and we talk about three categories: time, talent and treasure.
Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. As Christians, we are taught that our time, talent and treasure are all on loan to us – and that one day we will have to account for the way that we managed them. We manage them. We do not own them.
In his interview with Matthew Kelly, Jim says: “There is a reason Jesus talked more about money in the Gospels than any other subject.”
To which Matthew answers, “But there are many ways to be generous other than with money, right?”
“Absolutely,” Jim affirmed. “But if you are not generous with your money you will not be generous with your heart.”
Generosity is a hallmark of Dynamic Catholics. They are generous with their time and talent and with their money and possessions.
But their generosity goes way beyond these commonly defined areas. They don’t just have a spirit of generosity, but a spirituality of generosity that reaches deep into every corner of their lives.
The 7% are generous with their praise and their appreciation. They are especially generous with their encouragement. They are constantly encouraging people all around them. They are, as Matthew Kelly says, “the happiest people I know.”
The third sign of a Dynamic Catholic is generosity.
So many people are looking for direction, for appreciation, for encouragement, for welcome. And where do they look?
They look to us. We carry the light of Christ into our world.
Am I generous in sharing His light, or selfish?
Am I a lighthouse or a clubhouse?
Hear again the words of Saint Paul:
“Brothers and sisters: you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord … and Christ will give you light.”
“Live as children of light!” Dynamic Catholics live the Christian life gratefully and generously!
Next weekend we will look at the fourth sign of a Dynamic Catholic: EVANGELIZATION – in chapter 5 which is entitled, “Changing the World.”
Until then, happy prayer, happy study, happy generosity – and happy Lent, everybody!