Actions of Solidarity: Ideal Generosity – Br. Michael, OFM
“Morning!” I called out as jogged past the man walking his dog in the dawn moments of the day. “Morning.” came the deep reply as his dog followed my every move. Several strides later a city worker emerged from his truck near my path and shouted, “Morning!” I replied the same. I continued my jog back to the Friary as the day began to unfold under new light.
Later in the morning an employee helped me with a small project and another generously helped me with task. Shorty after lunch a friend kindly gifted me with a food item I was struggling to find and I returned his gesture with some tea I was hoping for him to try. Simple actions and words that made me think “oh, this is how the world should be!” It also made me think of the line, “Are you envious because I am generous?” from the parable about the landowner in Matthew 20.
Life is full of generous moments. Even something as simple as a greeting can be a gesture of generosity and kindness. There are moments of generosity that we never notice and others that happen to help us simply function. Generosity is often linked to deeds and actions, an outward sign of the position of our heart. If our heart was envious it would not be in a position to be generous, for the giving would come across as stifled or fraudulent. It would echo the labourers from the parable in Matthew 20 who grumbled about the generosity of the landowner.
Our God is indeed a generous God. God endlessly shares an abundance of freedoms, opportunities, and moments to encounter the splendour of creation and the depth of relationship not only with God but with each other. Our God never lacks in generosity even if we think otherwise or misconstrue God’s ways with our limited ways and understanding.
The generosity of God and our life has me thinking about a post I wrote in early June as protests continued across North America and around the world, heightening our awareness of Black Lives Matter. In that post I committed to learn more about racism and about poverty. I also made a solidarity statement of listening and allyship. Over the weeks that have passed I have been paying attention to my actions, my lack of action, what I am hearing and what society and I choose to let fall on deaf ears.
Generosity is not a race issue. Generosity whether given or received, whether divine or human is for all people. How we are a human race together speaks of generosity. How we support each other or not speaks about generosity. How we rise up to the occasion to break down the barriers we use as safety nets speaks about generosity. If it does not it leaves us with the envious labourers from the parable.
Over the past several weeks I have been trying to read and listen to people’s stories. Stories I have read, interviews I have heard that speak of the brokenness that Black Lives Matters and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls movements are calling to our attention. Where are our generous hearts? Are they stuck in comfortable ways and easy donations? Are they willing to move beyond this and truly be generous, to be the generous that our God continually shows us as the true way?
“God became flesh not because the world is full of sin but in order to transform the world into a communion of love centered in Christ. But as Albert Einstein warned, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”” (Patrick Carolan, St. Anthony Messenger, August 2020). It is up to us to continue to delight in God’s generosity, to be caught up in this communion of love. This is the depth of relationship and the beauty of the simple ideal world I encountered earlier in the day. How can we simply stand by and watch and not do anything? This does not speak of generosity. Rather it speaks to a closed heart unwilling to let the movement of the Spirit transform us.
Adele Halliday, a black Canadian in her perspective piece in September’s Broadview magazine says, “Undoing the legacy of racism is long-term work; please persevere long after this particular display of anti-Black racism fades from the news cycle. I need you to partner with God in actively doing this work… I believe God’s Spirit is also moving among the privileged and is disrupting, prodding and urging. God’s Spirit is also moving among the wounded and is soothing, comforting and encouraging. The work of racial justice is ours to do with God.” Ms. Halliday points to the generosity of our God and forces us to look at how this generosity is awakening us (or should be) to the work of the Spirit. God’s Spirit of love which is infused in us, which we are reminded of in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “is not envious, boastful or jealous” (12.31-13.8). It does not allow us to watch “without doing anything.”
I know I have a longways to go on this journey of being anti-racist. I am however grateful for the gifts of generosity in my day that have once again reminded me that the God’s Spirit is indeed inviting me to partner with God to do my part in rebuilding the world as it should be. How about you? What is generosity and God’s Spirit stirring up in you as we try to heal our hurting human family? What can we do, so that it is not said of us, they watched and did nothing?