9. Honor the LORD with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce;Reading: Proverbs 3:9-10.
10. Then will your barns be filled with grain, with new wine your vats will overflow.
Meditation: Pay days always bring a host of decisions, especially when the money does not stretch to cover all planned needs and unplanned contingencies. Take this past week, for example. Lizzie called to say that her cat, Princesse, had broken her paw and needed $2250 for surgery, which Lizzie did not have. Sixteen-year-old Princesse is an immigrant from Tunisia and has been Lizzie's constant companion through college, graduate school, and two professorial assignments. There is no question that she was worth every penny of the surgery, but Lizzie did not have the money, which was demanded upfront by the pet hospital. This was one of those unplanned contingencies. In addition, I needed to come up with the planned purchase of special milk for Nikolina who cannot digest regular milk because of her short bowel. It costs $300 for a month's supply, and Shane, having lost his job when her medical expenses became too much for his employer's insurance company ($2 million during her first six months of life), needs help coping with the lower salary he makes from the replacement job he was able to find. Of course, we have the same food and mortgage needs as everyone else. So, where does the money to give to God come from?
For some reason, from the moment of my conversion, I have not worried about this. Perhaps it was the way in which I was converted that produced the deep trust that allows me to give to God from my first fruits through donations and by committing funds when led to using God's credit card to help others. I have found that by giving to God first, the funds for my remaining needs, no matter what they are and how impossible it seems to cover them, always appear.
A little over two years ago, I was approached for a small donation for St. Francis Retreat Center, a local retreat center which does much good for many people. The center had burned down and needed to be rebuilt. I learned that the fundraising committee had raised much of the $1 million needed to rebuild but was still in need of $50,000 in order to construct the center's kitchen. After much prayer, I felt certain I was being led to donate this amount, but it would require about 15% of my income from every paycheck for five years (in addition to the 10% I was already donating to Old Mission and other diocesan/Christian charities). Yikes! How could I possibly manage 25% of my income for that 5-year period. Nonetheless, certain that God wanted me to make this commitment, I did, trusting that where God asked for what I did not have, God Himself would provide the difference. The pledge astonished the fundraising committee and the priest director; they knew I did not have this kind of money. Nonetheless, inspired by my trust, they went ahead and took out a bank loan for the full amount, and the kitchen (and rest of the center) has long ago been built. For nearly two-and-a-half years, every pay day, I have somehow found the pledged amount among my "first fruits," and it appears that my pledge will be paid off on time and so will the center's loan. Sometimes, I have had to make a sacrifice of some sort here and there (no vacation this year, for example), but, for the most part, money has appeared from unplanned sources (extra royalties, requests for consultations, etc.) in fulfillment of God's promise of barns filled and vats overflowing.
Contemplation: That is far as I can go with you this Monday morning. I now retire to private prayer to thank God for His great trustworthiness upon which I rely. I will praise God for the multitudinous ways in which He helps me to keep my promises to Him. I will ask God to deepen my trust, and, as God knows, I seriously repent those times where my trust could have been stronger. Then I will move on to contemplation, my favorite part of the day, letting God take over the direction in which my relationship with Him moves.
I will leave you now to your prayer and contemplation. First, though, I would like to bring to your attention a Monday morning prayer post that you might enjoy:
Fr. Austin Fleming, priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and pastor in Concord, Massachusetts, posts a prayer each Monday morning that he calls "Monday Morning Offering." I enjoy his prayers very much. I think you also will find them inspirational. He has graciously given me permission to include a link to his blog on my Monday Morning Meditation posts. (During the week, he also posts great homilies and other thoughtful discussions. I enjoy reading those, too, as do readers of this blog who have taken the stroll over to his blog.)
For additional inspiration throughout the week, I would point out two sets of blogs: (1) the list of devotional blogs on my sidebar and (2) my blogroll, where I am following a number of inspirational priests and writers about spiritual matters. I learn so very much from all these people. I highly recommend them to you.