Giving without boundaries

Homily 349 – Meatfare
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
March 3, 2019
Epistle: (140) – 1 Corinthians 8:8-9:2
Gospel: (106) – Matthew 25:31-46

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

As we approach Great Lent, the Church provides for us models of what repentance entails. In the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, we see that repentance is not extoling our virtues, nor reveling in our good works for God, but rather a cry for mercy whatever our situation entails.

The Sunday of the Prodigal Son tells us that our Father stands ready to receive us – regardless of the evil or the damage we have done. Not only does He stand ready, but He will come to meet us where we are as we journey back. Not that He even ever left.

Today, the criteria for judgment is made clear. Today, in very unambiguous terms, our Lord lays out for us the answer to that question: what must I do to be saved.

How can I, if you will, earn myself into God’s good graces. Now we know that there is not a way to earn salvation nor redemption.

We know this.

We also know, though, the standard by which we will be evaluated before God.

Did you feed the hungry? Did you give drink to the thirsty? Did you take in the stranger? Did you clothe the naked? Did you visit the sick and imprisoned?

All of which is saying, did you, to the best of your ability, and even to the sacrifice of your want and desire, meet the needs of those you encountered who had need.

We may think of the limitations we place on our help for others. God places no such limitations on us, though.

God doesn’t say – visit the sick unless they have HIV/AIDS. God doesn’t say take in the stranger unless he is in our country illegally. God doesn’t say give food only to those who are working. God doesn’t say give shelter as long as they aren’t using drugs.

He says, very clearly to me at least, help the needs you see.

Share of what you have. Don’t make loans – give gifts.

Especially seek out those who cannot repay you in any way.

I am trying to practice this in my own life, and I will be the first to tell you it is difficult. I can’t speak for anyone else, but perhaps you will identify with my fears.

I have a lot of clothes. I need to give them to people in need, rather than let them hang in my closet unworn. And yet, if I give them away, will people notice I wear the same thing every day? Will they think I’m poor?

If I drive an inexpensive used car, or live in a smaller home – will my place in the community suffer?

If I invite the poor and homeless and hungry to share my meal, or share my home, will people be offended? Will I be called an enabler to those who do evil?

The answer is yes, to all of those things. All of that, and more, will happen to me.

So the question changes – is the subjection to all those things worth it? What is the return on this investment I’m making?

Each one of us has to decide that for ourselves. For me the answer is you bet. Absolutely worth it – because in it I know that I find my salvation.

I know that through my generosity with what I have been given I will be rewarded in the world to come – but also in this life.

It isn’t just the world to come as our reward. What I experience, what Christ speaks of, is the joy and love we are given in return.

Ultimately – truly ultimately, in every sense of the word – the only value in anything is love. Relationships.

Things get in the way. Stuff gets in the way. Which is what the evil one desires – that we are lonely, as he is lonely.

When we get rid of the stuff, our relationships improve. Our love is discovered – giving and receiving.

So we end up benefiting in so many diverse ways.

Better relationships. More love. More joy.

In exchange for the things we don’t use anyway, but have stored away “just in case.”

Oh, and the most important thing – we find eternal life, with our Lord and Creator.

Our prayer for great lent is that we can detach ourselves from the things of this world, regardless of the cost or perceived damaged to our status and reputations, and focus our attention on the care and needs of others, to the Glory of God.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.