In my office, right next to where I hang my coat, there is a phrase written on the wall: “Think Eternally, Act Hourly.” This is an adaptation of a common business phrase often used in international marketing. I have it strategically placed so I will see it every morning, as a needed reminder. The first part of the phrase renews my commitment to seek the Kingdom first. That’s the easy part. I say to God, “I commit myself to your eternal will.” The second part is always the challenge. It is as if God replies to me, “That’s fine, I’m happy for your commitment. In the next 60 minutes, you’re going to have an opportunity to show me if you really believe that.” Suddenly, the commitment is real, not theoretical, and it is going to cost me something right now, whether or not I am ready.
This current crisis is affecting us all. Some of us have experienced the direct medical effects of the virus, some have felt the isolation of social distance, and some the feeling of lost community when public celebrations of the Mass are not available. And yet, glimmers of hope arise as we discover that we can use these times to bring us closer to God, the One who matters most. We learn that physical suffering need not be meaningless. We find a place in our day for stillness, for silent contemplation that is so often missing. We learn to practice the Spiritual Communion of the Body of Christ when we cannot receive him physically in the Eucharist, and to pray in solidarity with our brothers and sisters. These all have great value that can benefit us well beyond the losses that we are experiencing.
But let us not forget what perhaps is the most universally felt effect of these times. Furloughs, reductions in hours, layoffs, or simply uncertainty about the future of our jobs have made us all want to hunker down financially and try to weather the storm. This is frightening. And yet, these economic effects are subject to the same opportunities for spiritual growth as the other challenges. Our parishes need us now more than ever, even at a time when we are seemingly less able to help. Just as we can deepen our connection to and desire for the Eucharist at a time when we cannot receive it, we can also deepen our sense of stewardship when we continue to give at a time when we can least afford it.
There is no better opportunity to deepen our trust in God’s Providence and care than to do so when it costs us something dear, like our own feelings of security. Certainly, it is reasonable to say that this is a time when it is prudent to scale back on discretionary spending, with the promise that I will make it all up when things are more stable. At the same time, I know my parish needs me now, not later. I have never done online giving to my parish before, but making my weekly gift an automatic occurrence renders it a true “first fruit” return to God. It also provides me a unique opportunity to actually trust God more deeply.
I have my daily reminder to think eternally, and act hourly. My eternal thought is to recognize my reliance on God's Providence. My hourly action is to sign up for online giving.
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Featured image: Royce Bair, The Widow's Mite; CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0.