Cor 9:6-10 / Jn 12:24-26
“God loves a cheerful giver,” Paul says so in today’s reading. And it’s true, but the fact is that giving things away can be a very scary business. Lurking right under the surface are all sorts of fears: “If I give this away, am I going to have enough for myself? What if I run out? I could be destitute! I can’t give this away.”
Sometimes, possessing a particular thing, or job, or role can be so important to us that our identity gets all wrapped up in it. And the thought of giving it away sends chills down our spine. “If I give it away, who will I be? Will they still like me when I don’t have this or that anymore?”
And then there’s the business of giving our time or ourselves in friendship: “What if they make too many demands on me? Will I get hurt? Will I able to escape?” On and on it goes.
No doubt about it, giving things away — especially when it’s ourselves — can be a scary business. But it doesn’t have to be, for if our giving is wholehearted, with our entire attention focused on the other person and not on ourselves, and if there’s no holding back, something remarkable happens: we don’t experience the giving away as loss, but as gain. The recipient’s joy becomes ours.
Never is this more clear than when we give our full attention to a suffering friend and willingly share his or her pain and don’t run away from it. That ought to be entirely sad, but somehow in the self-forgetfulness that comes from focusing entirely on another’s needs, there is joy and comfort. And that’s what Paul was talking about: day by day investing so thoroughly in others that we experience their joys, as if they were our own. This was the joy that Jesus knew.
May this joy be yours every day of your life. Amen.