Before I begin this post, I'd like to offer a sincere apology. I've missed one or two posts now. I don't have any valid excuse, so it'd be pointless to explain my absence. I do hope you've been enjoying some of the excellent topics underway. Nicholas Sparks offered a wonderful opportunity to discuss an idea popular in our today's culture, artificual intelligence. This is what CBC is all about, engaging the culture.
Today, though, I'd like to offer a rather unpopular idea, even among Christians: tithing. Tithing is the means by which a person or family faithful to the Church offers up monetary or material support. The Old Testament under the Law of Moses stipulated the first 10 percent of a man's wealth (gross income in our lingo) be given to the local religious community. Via the liberation by Christ we are freed from this specific demand, but we are not dispensed from our obligation to monetarily give. From the excellent source, Catholic Answers:
"Although the Church teaches that offering some form of material support to the Church is obligatory for all Catholic adults who are able to do so, it doesn't specify what percent of one's income should be given....God doesn't demand a fixed amount of money from us; he wants us to give from the heart. If people are forced by their church to give a certain percent of their income, that's extortion. If they give freely and cheerfully the amount they are able, that's a gift." (http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/what-is-the-churchs-position-on-tithing The author of this particular answer cites both 1 and 2 Corinthians for Biblical support. You can view the specifics yourself.)
Now, many of us, when we were little, got really excited when we were done with such long and boring petitions that our child-like energy were too much and we started itching for something to do. Mom would pull out of her purse some prearranged envelope we knew was full of money. We all thought it was hundreds and hundreds of dollars! Of course, we know better, but the happiness to just put that envelope in the old straw basket at the collection was overwhelming. Every brother scrambled for that week's ability to put in the donation. It was a prized and honored duty.
We ought to have that same level of joy when we give to the Church today. I've never fully appreciated the power of tithing before, especially as a college student whose blood pressure can rise purely upon seeing student debt. But a beloved dean and wife gave a powerful testimony a few weeks ago on how their commitment to giving lead to such great blessings. Always the skeptic, I decided to experiment for myself--Lent provided a good way to start.
I established this set of parameters: every Sunday I would offer all the singles available in my wallet. If the amount exceeded more $5.00 I'd stop there for prudence's sake. This, of course, is far below the OT 10 percent, but I thought it was a reasonable start. I have done this for every Sunday of Lent. Here are the results.
This semester has required a bit of my budget to shrink. Not dangerously, I don't think, but enough to make me worry. After significant modification, I realized that without some aid, I would be limited in my summer employment; a political science major must sieze the opportunities that come to him, paid or not. But financial situations are often more immediately pressing that the offer of good albeit nonpaying internships. So, this was my difficulty.
Over spring break, I learned that I was eligible for nearly $600 dollars in tax refunds. On top of that, my most generous and blessed aunt signed a check of a significant amount and handed it right to me. I won't give details, of course, but it made me keep the check real close to me. The combined total was enough to keep me afloat for some time, and alleviate pressure.
I didn't realize the significance of what had happened until the following Sunday when I reached into my wallet to grab my tithe. I wondered, "When will I see the effects of my donati---" And like a bat to the face I was hit with the thought, "You're either ignorant or ungrateful, Stanton. The 'effects of your donations' have already taken place, idiot." I looked up to the statue of Christ and I smiled wryly, and I swear to God, I thought the blasted thing winked at me. God provided.
Bottom line is this: the dean and his wife were right. Giving to the Church regularly and often has its benefits. I was fortunate enough to see a material benefit. But I also experienced a spiritual one. It's not just that I felt good giving to the Church--I felt contributive to the mission of Christ, to the service of the poor, and all those things the Church must do. It's gratifying to know that, while not much, I've given what I could. I could do more, of course. The Church is in need of volunteers of all kinds, ranging from lectors to prison ministry. I'm happy to have the opportunity to do both and much more.
I ask that you consider, if you don't already, offering some small contribution to the weekly or even monthly collection. If you feel you can't do that, volunteer. If you can't do that, then serve the Church with your fervent prayers. We all know she could use those, too.