Saturday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time
Philippians 4:10-19; Luke 16:9-15
Of all the people St. Paul dealt with over the years, the Christians at Philippi were among the most dear to him. As we look at the letter he wrote to them, we understand why; they took care of him, did things to let him know how much they appreciated him.
What kind of things? First, they prayed for him. This meant so much to St. Paul that he began his letter by thanking them for it. He knew its power, and was grateful for every prayer he could get. Second, they visited him. He referred to one man by name who came to see him, Epaphroditus. Third, they sent him whatever financial gifts they could, not just once but repeatedly (4:16), in part to try and relieve his suffering in prison. In their great love for him, the Philippians probably looked at all these things as small matters, regardless how difficult. That we cannot know. What we do know is that they were trustworthy, and that made them great matters to St. Paul.
It makes them great to God as well. We heard Jesus speak of such trustworthiness in the gospel. Twice he said it: If we can’t be trusted with very small matters, then we can’t be trusted with greater. In other words, small matters matter.
Take prayer, for example. Saying a prayer for someone may seem like a small matter. It isn’t small to God; he is constantly exhorting us to pray. It isn’t small to the one asking for the prayers, either; to them, it’s one of the greatest things we can do. Maybe they’re having surgery, or their child is sick, or they’ve lost their job and can’t find another. Whatever the reason, taking a moment to lift them up in prayer isn’t much to ask, but its effects are life-changing.
As you are very well aware, it’s no small matter to do what Epaphroditus did – visit someone in prison. If that’s not for you, remember that there are all kinds prisons. Think of the people in nursing homes, hospitals, or confined to their home due to illness. How much it would mean to them to see your face and receive Holy Communion! There are also people who need someone to talk to, someone who will listen, like the Philippians did when they shared in St. Paul’s distress (4:14). These kinds of outreach are a small matter in terms of time, but what greater thing is there than to bring Christ, or be Christ, to those who otherwise would go without?
As for charity, we may not have much more money to give, but remember the dishonest steward we heard about yesterday. Jesus didn’t commend the steward because he was honest; he commended him because he was bright and used his wits to secure his future. God asks us to do the same. If charity doesn’t mean more money, then we have to use our ingenuity and find other ways to give. Consider, for example, the corporal works of mercy. We already mentioned visiting the sick and those in prison, but there is feeding the hungry; that could be anything from actually making meals to helping at a food pantry. Giving drink to the thirsty could be donating bottled water to family shelters or conserving water in our home; sheltering the homeless, anything from making warm blankets for shelters to actually opening your home to provide shelter; and burying the dead, anything from praying for those who have died to being a compassionate listener in the bereavement ministry.
Whatever ways you find to give, remember these three things:
- God is asking us to put our minds to work, then find ways to put ourselves behind it;
- God is not asking for great things, but for little things done with great love; and
- Even though we already give, sometimes it seems to the breaking point, we have St. Paul’s words to the Philippians, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).