Sunday, 22 September 2019

Harvest -Giving the 'First Fruits', 25th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year C

Amos 8:4-7; Lk 16:1-13
Today we’re keeping out parish Harvest Festival.
This is an important moment in the year to do a few things:
to give thanks to God, communally as parish, give thanks for EVERYTHING -our prayers at Mass will do this especially;
to remember our need to give to others, give out of bounty we ourselves have received -our Scripture readings today remind us powerfully of the need to do that, and our appeal at the end of Mass will be a particular focus for that.

Bringing the fruits of the harvest to God, in worship, was the Biblical practice,
and I thought I say a few words about why this is an important model for our whole lives
-not just for the harvest.
In the Bible we read how Moses told the people,
“As you harvest your crops, bring the very best of the first harvest to the house of the Lord your God.” (Exodus 23:19)
And King Solomon similarly said,
“Honour the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9-10)

Note: “first fruits” -the harvest came in waves over the summer, and they offered God what came first.
If you give God the “first” fruits you show that you are putting Him FIRST, as He commanded, in what the Lord Jesus called the first and greatest commandant, to love God first (Mt 22:35-40; Mk 12:28-34; Lk 10:27; Deut 6:4-5).
And if you give God the “first” fruits of the harvest, you need to TRUST Him that there will be more of the harvest later.

Let me make a contrast: In our society today its normal for charities to collect with collection boxes or buckets, maybe outside the supermarket.
The expectation is that we put our loose change in the bucket. We give away some bits of our leftovers.
The Biblical harvest ‘first fruits’ model is the reverse:
we don’t give our leftover bits and pieces,
rather, we START our financial planning by giving away,
THEN we figure how to run our annual expenses on what is left.
Cardinal Hume, as I guess many of you know, suggested that the first hours’ wages of each week should be given away.

I know many of you already have this as your practice.
And, obviously, it’s good to put into collection baskets, even if only a little.
But today, thinking of the harvest offerings, the “first fruits”, is a good time to ask ourselves AT WHAT STAGE in our financial planning we decide what percentage of our annual income we’re going to give away this year.
The “first fruits” model suggests that we start our planning by planning our giving first,
whether it’s giving to God by supporting charities OR giving to God by supporting the Church.

A final thought: God will not be outdone in generosity.
When we are generous to Him, with time, with effort, with money,
then, He is even more generous to us.
He doesn’t promise what form that generosity to us will take,
but there is a reason that the stereotype of a miser is of someone miserable,
and the stereotype of giver is of someone light-hearted, free, and happy.
“Remember this —a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’ And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.“ (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

So, let’s give thanks to God today for what we have, and renew our dedication to be generous with it.

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