First Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:6-10
Brothers and sisters: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever. The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 112:1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9
Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need. Blessed the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commands. His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth; the upright generation shall be blessed. Well for the man who is gracious and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice; He shall never be moved; the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance. An evil report he shall not fear; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear till he looks down upon his foes. Lavishly he gives to the poor, his generosity shall endure forever; his horn shall be exalted in glory.
Gospel: John 12:24-26
Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”
Be gracious. Give lavishly to the poor. Sow bountifully. Today's readings sound so apt, so appropriate for the tail-end of summer. Of course! Be generous and do nice things for other people. Surely we can all look back at our summer and reflect happily with a hint of self-congratulations on the "nice" things we accomplished or partook in.
The Gospel, though. Death and loss, all wrapped up in following Christ? That's not so sweet and lavish and nice sounding. That sounds like something uncomfortable, un-fun, and frankly, un-performable by this crew over here.
I stare at a stack of fabrics on my work table. They're festive and beautiful, lavish and lovely. Before I begin to cut into one of them, testing a new pattern, my head feels light and clear. The thrill and novelty, the delight of opportunity. There's a sensation of peace and joy that comes along for me with creating patterns and textiles. But when it comes time to buckle down and sew out two dozen orders, suddenly the charge of energy isn't there anymore.
My easily distracted mind wants to make a new item, work with a new fabric. I'm fickle. I don't want to follow through on the work. Don't get me wrong: finishing projects and sending them out the door to customers for the little loves in their lives? That feeling, I love. But I love less the pile of work. I love less the interruptions, the elusive sense of completion unless I work late into the night. I don't love the death part, the killing off my faux ADHD, the loss of what I feel like doing that's replaced by what I need to do.
This seems a trivial example. Nell's sewing escapades. But I'm finding that in saying a determined "no" to my distracted self, whether it be to fiddle online instead of finish a project, I can build the muscle of self-determination, self-discipline. I'll love better, follow Christ better, be better able to die to myself to live for those I love. It's just hard to stay on task and say "no" to my inner three-year-old.
Are you shying away from buckling down and facing something in your life? Are you indulging your inner three-year-old? You'll feel better once you push past the discomfort and leap to follow Christ, even in the littlest things. Promise.
Nell O'Leary is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom to three lovelies. She and her husband live in the great city of Saint Paul. You can find out more about her here.