A couple of weeks ago, I shared my story of a homeless man asking for change and how I was embarrassed for wanting to give him less than a dollar. I thought I was golden for having realized that I need to be more generous. Apparently, I thought I had learned my lesson in generosity and was ready to move onto the next fruit of the Spirit.
Today’s Gospel reminds me that just because I sacrificed my money, that does not mean that I am done. I am not 100 percent generous and holy and ready to move on. Instead, he is asking me to take a step deeper into true stewardship and community.
Being generous is not quite the same thing as doing God’s work. There is more to helping people around you than just words and physical gifts. My friend in college used to say that “Anyone can give money, but not everyone actually gives a hoot.”
Jesus says something similar when he tells us, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” We are to look at the people around us, the lost, the poor, the weak, the people we call “other,” and see them as the children of God that they are. Maybe I’m on Facebook more often or maybe I am becoming more socially aware, but I see such a lack of mercy in our culture, in the nation that I truly love and celebrated yesterday.
I see animosity on social media rather than two sides learning from one another. I see people selfishly fighting each other instead of selflessly fighting for change. What’s worse is that I see people’s blatant disregard for human life just because they are born in another country, born into a different culture, born in another time period, or just simply unborn.
I want to know where the mercy is because, for a great nation that came into existence by immigration, all I see is a self-serving sacrifice. Our God does not want a flippant sacrifice. He expects something much more complex and often more difficult for us. He desires mercy.
The Lord wants, deeply desires, for us to be compassionate and practice forgiveness. He desires for us to let go of our anger and forgive people for being different than us, even though they may not know American customs, do not acknowledge the sanctity of life, and even if they do not know or believe in God. Our Father wants us to come from a place of wanting better for the people you disagree with, wanting for them to know the truth with love, not vindictively.
Today, I ask you to consider the things you read in the media and try to understand the people in the stories, rather than only seeing the political issues. Focus on the people and what they must be going through. Consider the risks they are taking and the pain that they are in. See that the trouble that they find themselves in were never their first choice.
In your heart, you’ll know that the choices they’ve made, right or wrong, good or bad, were not easy.
Gracious and Loving God,
Help us in this time of great suffering,
That we may look upon those suffering with the love you have shown us.
Grant us your patience to be silent and listen when we think we are right.
Grant us your love to pour forth on those that do not know you.
Grant us your strength to have mercy for those that need it the most.
We are not done learning from each other and we are never done learning from You, O Lord.
May the Holy Spirit, our guide, lead us toward compassion.
May Jesus Christ, who forgave his murderers, teach us forgiveness.
Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.