‘Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.— Matthew 6:1

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The other day I read a meditation that caught my attention and memory. Some years ago, I was in a planning meeting for a stewardship campaign. A committee member proudly announces her strategy to increase her gift to the church next year — by forgoing her daily “treat to herself” once a week, of a special latte drink at Starbuck’s, and increase her pledge that much. She wanted to drop a few pounds anyway. Since she and her husband were quite well-off, I quietly hoped her increase wouldn’t break them.

Then, as the Advent/Christmas season approached, some conversation centered on these “street people,” asking for money and how to not feel guilty when you walked by. Someone suggested – Take the person into (again) a Starbuck’s, buy them a coffee or latte, and sit down and ask them if they’d like to talk. Get to know someone whose life you observe from a distance, but never know her/his story. Be lovingly curious, which means seriously interested and empathetic. Of course, that is not practical right now – but I have hope — as soon as vaccines now being developed are finally tested and offered.

Giving to those in need is a value in the Kingdom of God – here on earth as in heaven. But if we don’t take time to see the other — without looking them in the eye, our gift may be more for our own sake than theirs. People who ask for help are in a vulnerable position. If we can meet them as a sister or brother in Christ – without judging or feeling superior to them, we have added a gift to the gift. We are connected to all people. God calls us to listen and “walk with.” Leave judging to the One who knows how. We came into this world in need, and we’ll leave needing help, quite likely. We are all “givers and receivers.”

Jesus teaches us to examine our inner motives carefully. We honor those we reach out and give to, by remembering those who have helped us along the way.

One of the gifts of aging I read, and now discover, is to remember - “I am not self-made.” So many, including you, have shared “gifts differing” with me. Since the first of this year, four dear friends have died. I wish I’d taken time before they did, to thank them – to let them know what they have given me — to look them in the eye. Think about such people in your life, and those you “help” to help you feel better about yourself. Then consider Jesus’ words. The reward God gives when we practice piety God’s way – by simply giving – not from a one-up position — seeing Christ in them, becomes a double gift — the help you give and the time you spend helping someone be heard. Our lives are connected by God – in His love for you, and yours for one another – all others. We each have a story that needs sharing.

Blessings, grace and love this day – Fr. Steve
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