Ite Missa Est Reflection February 07, 2015 – Scripture Readings
A line from Hebrews struck me today. It reads:
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind. (Heb. 13:16 NAB)
This seems pretty simple, right? Any basic catechesis we received will tell us that sins of omission, failing to do something, are real. We even say it when we recite the Confeitor with these words:
I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, … in what I have failed to do.
So we are certainly supposed to do good and we are supposed to share. Hebrews tells us to share what we have and that is where we should spend some time today.
There are a number of unanswered questions surrounding this line. Who are we sharing with? How much is enough? What if I don’t trust the person? What am I sharing in the first place? What if I think they don’t deserve it?
I pose these as real questions that I asked myself as I considered how these words applied to my life. I want to zero in on ‘What am I sharing in the first place?’ because I think that we can’t answer any of the other questions without addressing this.
As I considered what I’m supposed to be sharing, I immediately began doing a mental inventory. I have books, some money, some food, stuff like that. The problem is all of these things were material objects and I have multiples of all of them. My gut reaction was to share things that I can hand off and avoid vulnerability at all costs; and my definition of sharing suddenly morphed into giving from my excess.
That’s not how we define sharing to children. Sharing is a difficult lesson for them because it is about sharing those things that they only have a few of. My personal concept of sharing was hardly fitting the context of describing this as a “sacrifice.” Well intentioned as it may be, I’ve never felt the pull of sacrifice giving up a can of vegetables I didn’t want to eat in the first place. So what are we really talking about here?
I believe that this verse is calling us to share in a way that makes us as vulnerable as the person in need and to avoid merely giving from our excess. This might mean getting away from tangible sharing sometimes. Can you give someone one of your eight pairs of socks? Sure. Can you give them your Saturday morning to help cut the lawn they never got to after having a baby? Can you give up the news of your promotion in order to mourn with someone who has experienced betrayal? Can you share the hospitality that you would extend to strangers to the people you live with every day? Can you share the hope you have in the Lord with someone who isn’t sure if they are loved? Can you share a meal with a homeless person? Or maybe you and your family can fast in solidarity with the poor and then give to the hungry. To me that sounds more like sharing.
Here is my challenge, and I’ll be doing this too. Between now and Mass tomorrow, pay attention to what it is you truly have; tangibly and abstractly. At Mass, offer ALL of those things to God when the gifts are taken up, and ask the Lord, “What should I be sharing? Who should I be sharing it with? How much is enough? What if they don’t deserve it or I can’t trust them?”