Formation

The virtue of generosity as a remedy for avarice

At its highest level, generosity leads to self-giving. This gives the virtue of generosity a tone of superior sacredness to many other virtues.

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The remedy for the addiction to avarice is the virtue of generosity. This is a quality of those who are willing to sacrifice something that is theirs for the benefit of others.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful and simple definitions of this virtue is found in the expression: to leave yourself. The most effective remedy recommended by the saints against avarice.

This virtue finds a fundamental place in the description of the Christian mystery itself.

God is a constant coming out of himself: in the Most Holy Trinity, a Divine Person comes out of himself to love the other; in the mystery of the Incarnation, the Son leaves the Trinitarian bosom to come to meet men; in his public life, Jesus goes out of his way to meet the wounded man; in his teaching, the Lord teaches the disciples to go out and announce it; in the paschal mystery.

Christ goes out of himself, offering his own life, to save; in the eucharistic mystery, perpetuated to the present day, Jesus goes out of himself to be present in bread and wine in order to commune it.

One good for the other

An act of generosity implies losing, since it consists in giving something that is mine to another who needs it. This asset, regardless of its nature (whether material, spiritual, time, skills, etc.), ceases to be exclusively mine and also becomes the other’s in order to build it.

For this reason, generosity is directly linked to sacrifice.

A generous person is willing to sacrifice for the sake of others something that he has, something that belongs to him.

At its highest level, generosity leads to self-giving. This gives the virtue of generosity a tone of superior sacredness to many other virtues.

The logic of the Kingdom of God

The term sacrifice means, etymologically, to make holy, and this is accomplished by the principle of love: when I lose something out of love for the other, this something becomes holy. Generosity is, in fact, about getting poorer.

In the mold of Christ, who “you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; rich as he was, he made himself porr for you sake, in order to make you rich by means of his poverty. (2 Cor 8,9).

“Christ is the supreme Sharing of Himself made by the Father, offered for communion between Him and man, communion of Father, Son, Spirit, children and the goods of all who are, after all, the goods of the Father” (Emmir Nogueira, Leandro Formolo: the Secret of Divine Providence, p. 104, Ed. Shalom).

Generosity brings gratuity as an intrinsic characteristic. The first engine of generous acts is love, which gives without expecting to receive anything in return.

Christ teaches this evangelical maxim when he says “give without expecting to receive” (cf. Lk 6,35) and gives the highest and most perfect example of this virtue through self-sacrifice.

5 tips to grow in generosity

Now take the avarice remedy in 5 doses:

1 – Prayer: the first step in growing in generosity is to take our heart (in a broad view: thoughts, feelings, affections) from earthly things and place it on things above.

We cultivate it through prayer. Garrigou-Lagrange says that God “makes us use earthly things as if we don’t use them, without connecting our hearts to them” (Garrigou-Lagrange, the three ages of inner life – tome II).

2 – Recognize that everything comes from God: it is necessary to recognize that all the goods with which we relate comes, in the first place, from God, who takes care of us only moved by his infinite love. 

Being aware that everything is a divine gift will give rise to gratitude, praise and joy. At the same time, it will make us grow in abandoning children and will remove the fear of sharing from us for fear of being abandoned. God is a Father who takes care of us!

3 – Give goods their proper place: we must be clear that goods are not an end, but only a means. In the administration and relationship with goods, we must always aim at the common good and the glory of God.

We must not let concern for goods take up more space in our lives than is necessary. We must work, be responsible, but know that ours is not in the hands of men, but of God. “Do not worry about what you are going to eat; “Seek the things of the Kingdom and everything else will come in addition” (cf. Mt 6). 

4 – Donate the superfluous: analyze what is really necessary and recognize that I do not need more than that. Everything that is not necessary is superfluous and ends up being a burden for us. Getting rid of what we don’t need is a good exercise to grow in generosity.

At this point, it is important to recognize that there are many things that we consider necessary but are not! Often the media creates needs in us that are not real and that we can easily get rid of. 

5 – Sharing in a concrete way: just as greed is translated into concrete things, generosity must also do so. An inner detachment is useless unless there is an external sign of it. We would just be convincing ourselves that we are poor. 

Father Raniero Cantalamessa says:

“The body without a soul is killed, the tree without fruit is sterile and the fruit without flavor is tasteless; so too is material poverty, if it is not accompanied by poverty in spirit. (…) Never in Christianity was disincarnated spiritual poverty inculcated. (…) On the other hand, neither the Gospel nor the Church has ever canonized material poverty in itself, or has assessed the heroism of poverty based solely on the degree of poverty. ” (Raniero Cantalamessa, Poverty)

Examples of concrete sharing are the return of the communion of goods, tithing, works of charity, donations, helping needy brothers in the material dimension, among others.

In this spirit, Pope Francis says:

“If you want to know if you are a good Christian… Yes, you have to pray, you have to try to get closer to communion, reconciliation… But the sign that your heart has been converted is when the conversion reaches the pocket. If you are generous to others, you help the weakest, the poorest: when you deny your own interest. When the conversion gets there, then we know that it is a true conversion. If it’s just words, gestures, it’s not a good conversion.” (General Audience Wednesday, 21st, Vatican’s Paul VI Room, Pope Francis)

May the Lord give us the grace to be more and more like Him, who “from being rich became poor to enrich us with his poverty.”

 

Translation: Beatriz Duarte


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