Friday, August 03, 2007

First Fruits is You

We've been particpating in a concept at our parish called "First Fruits." It's really a lot more than a stewardship program or a round-about way of getting dollars in the door. It's about discipleship under the Lord Jesus and a way of living the Life.

Today's First Reading recounts the source of this "first fruits" concept. Each year Israelites were asked to bring to God the first produce from their crops (Leviticus 23:11) . The priest took the portion and offered it to God in thanksgiving for all that God had given.

Similarly, we are asked to give a portion of our substance to God through the Church- time, talent, treasure.

Today I've been thinking about the future. What might I offer to God? I could go a lot further in obeying the evangelical counsels- which deal (among other things) with food, power, and the thought life.

But even if I were to give up more personal options on how to spend my money, my time, my energy, I could still withhold myself from God. It could end up sounding something like this: "ok, Lord, you can have this part of me. Aren't I grand and spiritual for making this sacrifice?"

But somehow I think that idea misses the real point of First Fruits. Really, all that we have, all of who we are, belongs to God in the first place. Unless we recognize that fact, all of our sacrifices are really nothing more than a great big shell game with the Divine. It's really about total abandonment to God.

I realized this last Wednesday afternoon after I was being prayed for at the Companions of Christ Conference. At one point in the prayer time all I could do was cry out "Lord, all that I want is YOU." As I prayed those words, I realized that my whole life has to be given to God, not just my time, not just money, not just my sex life. And all of this happens BEFORE a word is said about vocation. It's just part of the great divine exchange program.

His riches for our poverty.
His obedience for our rebellion.
His purity for our unclean-ness.

God gives us all of who He is in Christ and His Spirit. It seems to me that once that work is recognized and appropriated, the giving back becomes a part of living,.... not an obligation, but a joyful surrender of self.

Sometime earlier this month I read in the Office of Readings these words from 2 Corinthians. Paul is speaking about the Macedonian churches and their generous response to his collection on behalf of fellow Christians in the Holy Land. "First they gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us through the will of God" (2 Cor. 8:5).

That's what I purpose to do. God give me strength.


Gabrielle said...

Your experience at the conference makes me think of two things in your recent St. John Vianney post: "See, when we have made a retreat or a jubilee, we are full of good desires: these good desires are the breath of the Holy Ghost, which has passed over our souls...". And when you cried out that all you wanted was the Lord, is that not offering your first fruits, as Vianney said: "Such a a bunch of grapes under the wine press."

Phil B. said...

How true! That was the most moving conference I've ever been to and part of the reason was that it was bathed in prayer. Without prayer it's all a bunch of words.