The Epistle reading on the 18th Sunday after Pentecost is from the Holy Apostle Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 9. The first three verses are a mini-manual in showing mercy: “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (v. 6-8).
We’d like to highlight how the Lord, par excellence, acted in this way: He gave (and He offered Himself) willingly. He came to us, He accomplished everything, He accepted everything and He was crucified, in order to convince us that He loves us and to blot out sin. He first “sowed bountifully” so that later He could “reap bountifully.” Because only after seeing the Lord crucified does man begin to be penetrated into his heart and to act as a person who loves, who is according to the image of God. And this is exactly what the Lord wants. He doesn’t start by asking; rather, he starts by giving everything and offering Himself fully. And afterwards, He tells us to follow Him, if we so desire: to be crucified, to offer ourselves willingly, just like Him. And when people see this Christ-like behavior, they convert. Just as how the Lord’s Cross convinced my heart of the Lord’s love “to the end,” likewise, if I replicate in my life the Lord’s willing self-denial, His self-offering, and His Cross, then I will inspire the hearts of those around me. In fact, this is the only way hearts are inspired. This is how, with God’s help, those people are also transformed in due time.
“God loves a cheerful giver.” Let us recall the word of the Father: “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3.17, 17.5). The Lord, the Son of God, out of goodwill, out of love, fulfilled the Father’s will and came to be crucified. Thus, He was a cheerful giver. Not constrained. Not forced. But cheerful. This is Whom God loves and in Him He is “well-pleased.”
This is what the Lord seeks in our hearts too. Observe that the Lord fulfilled the commandment of showing mercy in alignment with how Father Arsenie Papacioc defines it: “mercy is not to give what you have, but to give what you are.” Meaning to tear a piece of yourself, to engage yourself in that act of mercy. That is the act that has value and transforms you.
Saint Paul didn’t prescribe for us how much to give, but whatever we give should be from a good heart, with commitment and enthusiasm. Our heart needs to be in it. And in this way, we become like our Lord, Who did all things willingly, out of love. He made commitments and offered himself fully. This is what He wants from his. Not like the rich people who tossed something in the temple treasury and that’s it. This is not enough, because it doesn’t transform you. Mercy needs to pass through our heart, to engage us in a commitment. In the same measure, we receive grace and are transformed into the new man.