CHEERFUL GIVING: A HOMILY ON SHROVE TUESDAY (MARDI GRAS)
I particularly like what the French call this day, Mardi gras, which means big or fat Tuesday. The name comes from the fact that tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and people are expected to fast, pray and give alms. Therefore, they will have a big party today where they will really eat big and go big on everything, because tomorrow, people will be expected to give up things that they enjoy. I dont know if that practice is a good idea or not, but it is what it is.
But it is not the Tuesday that should be big. Our hearts should be big too. We have to be magnanimous in our love and in our giving. The first reading tell us to be magnanimous in many ways. We are to be magnanimous in keeping God’s commandments. Sometimes we keep his commandments out of fear. This is not magnanimous because if there is no negative consequences attached to breaking those commandments, we would break them. Even with the consequences we still break them. It means our hearts is not big enough.
We are also asked to be magnanimous in our gratitude. Our pride makes it difficult for us to give thanks. We have nothing of our own. Everything we have has been received. So, we are not to give thanks and offer sacrifices of praise to God, just to fulfill all righteousness. We are to do it with magnanimity. We are told not to appear empty-handed before the Lord. A magnanimous person does not say ‘I dont have’ or ‘I cannot do it’. A magnanimous person will always have something, no matter how little, to give. Sometimes it is not our pocket that is empty, but our hearts are not big enough. Magnanimity is the virtue of being big and living large. Not living large by eating and drinking everything yourself, but always having that extra to give away.
A very important aspect of magnanimity is that we are told in the first reading to give cheerfully. The reason why we do good for people and they dont seem to appreciate it is because they can see that even when we are doing good, we are not doing it with smiles on our faces. Beggars are used to that face. God loves a cheerful giver. Sometimes we do good and give, but it is as if we are forced. It is as if we wouldnt have, if other situations were different. A magnanimous person does not count what he has done or given. He does not say ‘I did all that, and you didnt even thank me’. A magnanimous person gives, and gives and gives, with smiles irrespective of who appreciates it or not.
We are entering into lent, the season of magnanimity. It is a season where we celebrate the magnanimous love of God who became one of us, and gave us everything, including His own life. Peter in the Gospel asks Jesus what the reward will be for abandoning everything and following Him. Jesus assures him that nobody who has given up house, brothers, sister, father, children, land, etc, for His sake will go unrewarded. But in abandoning all these things, there should be joy. A saint who is not joyful is not a real saint. The Hebrew terms for being holly and being happy have the same root.
Psalm 141:5 says ‘If the righteous man strikes or reproves me, it is kindness. But let the oil of the wicked not anoint my head’. What this means is that it is better for a good person to treat you badly, than for an evil person to treat you with kindness. It is better for someone to be cheerful and not have much to give you, than for someone to give you much, but grudgingly. Some people are so desperate that they will receive such kindness, but if they have a choice, they will reject it. This is why it is important to be a cheerful giver and that is why the Ash Wednesday readings will tell us not to look sorrowful even when we are fasting. Be magnanimous. Mardi Gras is not about going to bed tonight with a big stomach, but waking up with a big heart.
I am Fr. Ifeanyichukwu Henry Nwokoro, CSsR. I am your fellow child of God and this is my way of sharing my daily reflections with you. Please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion or question. Let everything that lives and that breathes give praise to the Lord.
View all posts by Fr. Ifeanyichukwu Henry Nwokoro CSsR