Giving in Confidence

Homily at St John Lloyd, for The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Year C.

In the pages of the Bible, God often uses bread when he wants to make a point.

Jesus is faced with a hungry crowd, so he challenges his disciples to give them a meal. “Be generous with the little you have available, and God will provide beyond your wildest expectations.” The disciples grumble, but are persuaded to give what they have – and it stretches.

How did God do it? Some Bible scholars suggest that Jesus shamed the crowd into sharing their packed lunches. Me, I believe in a God who can multiply loaves on occasion, just like that. But if we focus on HOW God provided, we miss the point. The starting point is that the disciples had to take a risk and give of the little they had available, before they could receive God’s blessing. And the same applies to us!

In the first reading, we meet the mysterious priestly figure called Melchizedek. Abraham recognises him as a holy man. When this priest offers bread and wine, Abraham gives him a tithe – that is, one tenth of all he owns and possesses! It is from this that the practice of tithing – giving one tenth – came into the church.A pie chart showing a 10% sector being removed

Now, tithing hasn’t always been popular, especially when the taxman has gotten involved. In Germany, even today, if you register that you belong to a particular church, the taxman automatically gives a slice of your income to that church. In Ireland, the state used to take a tenth of the income of Catholics and give it to the Anglican church – in the 1830s, this led to a campaign of civil disobedience by Irish Catholics which became known as the ‘Tithe War.’ Here in Wales, the 1880s saw another ‘Tithe War’ – nonconformist chapel-goers in Denbighshire also objected to being forced to make payments to the Church of England. It’s not surprising that among Catholics, and in Wales, ‘tithing’ is something of a dirty word.

Yet today, Corpus Christi Sunday, we do well to stop and ask ourselves what we are willing to offer to God in return for His gifts to us – the gift of our sins being forgiven whenever we repent – which Jesus had to pay for on the Cross – the gift of eternal life, and the gift of Holy Communion which connects us to heaven even while we remain here on earth. Often, in St John Lloyd, we sing Lord, how can I repay? – a worship song in which we pledge to God that we will trust Him, give of our lifeblood, and praise Him without reserve. These are easy words to sing, but what do they mean in practice?

Part of the answer is that we praise God by choosing to attend Mass, and to take a full part in it, including the singing. In this way, we honour Jesus hidden in the Blessed Sacrament. Part of the answer is that we give of our time to serve the needs of the Church community, and of the needy members of our local community. In this way, we honour Jesus hidden in the poor. And part of the answer is that we praise God with our wallets, purses and bank accounts!

Now, don’t be alarmed by the word ‘tithe’. I am not going to insist that you give St John Lloyd parish 10% of your income… but I’m not going to stop you either! The money which we give to the Church and to other good causes is an act of worship, because we are giving to God’s work knowing that it is God’s work. So our giving to church and to charity should be something which we think through and do as a deliberate part of our whole relationship with God.

There are four questions in today’s newsletter, and one of them will be relevant to the way you organise your giving to church and to charities right now.

If you don’t already plan how you are going to give, then consider making a plan. The needs of the poor, and of the church, are too important to be left to an absent-minded search for loose change in your pocket.

If you do plan what to give, but God’s work comes at the bottom of the list after all the other bills, ask yourself whether God deserves more than that. This is the scary bit! There are all kinds of logical reasons why we should pay the mortgage, gas bill and credit card bill before we give a penny to the church. But God is King of the Universe, and his resources are infinite. In the Bible – you can look it up in Malachi chapter 3 – God says ‘Test me out on this!’ Give to God’s work as a priority and you will discover that you will not lose out in your personal finances. Humanly speaking , it shouldn’t work – but it does!

I have found God to be faithful to this over and over again when I am nudged in my own personal prayer life to give generously to certain causes, and God has always arranged for me to be repaid in full, with interest, within a week or so! It’s the same challenge which the Disciples faced with a crowd of 5000 – they had to take the risk of giving away what they had before they could discover how God was going to bless them in return.

If you do give to charities and to church because it is important to you as Catholic to do this, but you give a fixed amount, perhaps it’s time to review that amount. It honours the way God blesses us, if we give a percentage of what we have received.

Finally, if you do already give a percentage, is God inviting you to raise it? As our relationship with God deepens, as we discover how to listen to God’s nudges and experience the blessings which come our way when we give generously, God might invite us to take the next step of faith. Maybe even as high as ten percent!

In the pages of the Bible, God often uses bread when he wants to make a point.

When we give from our surplus, that’s an act of charity.

When we give from our core resources – because we know the Lord is asking for a greater sacrifice – that’s an act of faith. And it’s one the Lord has promised to repay!

Today, Corpus Christi Sunday, we celebrate the Lord’s gift of His Body to us. How will you repay God for his goodness?

 Acknowledgements: the four point plan for growing in giving is from Rebuilt by Corcoran and White. The pie chart was adapted from free clip-art at FCIT.