Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Eternal Accountant

Give without counting the cost.
--- Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola

The credit card bills arrived in the mail this month. Ack!! They totaled more than my entire month’s income, and that before considering the property taxes, which are also due this month. The savings account is its usual dusty drawer, and so the home equity line of credit account will be tapped -- again, for a while. Next month a CD matures, and it will be money enough to pay off the loan and get back to breakeven.

Even with the bank, and even with God.

It was nearly twenty five years ago when I first told God: “Tell me what You wish me to do, no matter what, and I will do it.” When I made that promise, I had in mind cleaning up my sinful ways, focusing on loving my neighbor more, and later, perhaps even selling my house and going to wherever He might send me, to do what He might ask. It was a sincere commitment, but somehow when talking to God then, I did not have in mind financial matters. I did not consider that He might ask me to sell everything and follow Him. Take no bag for the journey (Mt 10:10) was not on my mind, nor the above prayer of St. Ignatius. Those things would come later.

I’m not sure whether not balancing my checkbook or giving without counting came first, but somewhere along the years they both happened. If something appeared to be what God wished me to give to, I did, regardless of the money in the checking account. And there was always money enough, or money came in at just the right time, like the inheritance this year from the unknown relative, or the CD coming available next month, at just the right time. And if push came to shove, I knew I could always tap into the retirement funds, although I had planned to give those to charity. But I stopped worrying a while back, and trusting. Now I know you may say: “Must be nice, having enough money to fall back on so that you needn’t worry.” Yes, the fact that I saved all my years is a blessing now.

I know not everyone has money to give, as I do, but I do believe that everyone has something to give, even if it is a little thing, like the widow’s mite. It can be time at a soup kitchen, canned goods to a food drive, or even cutting an ailing neighbor’s lawn: we all can give something. And, for that matter, when we have given all that we think we have to give, we can always give more, just a little more.

How often have you prayed the prayer popularized by St. Faustina: My Jesus, I trust in You? Do you really pray that prayer sincerely, really trusting Him? If you are telling Him you trust in Him, I’d advise you, don’t lie! Trust in Him! You may be very poor, you may have no free time at all, you may be physically ailing, but REALLY, can’t you spare one hour of the 720 hours in a month and trust that He won’t somehow ease your burdens so the hour is available for the needs of others? Can’t you spare one can of soup to a food bank without starving? Can’t you find time to pray one hour with Him at a chapel, or even make the chapel your room, or even your bed, if you are ailing? Can’t you give of any of these things? And if you are giving that and more, then can’t you give that little, tiny bit more also?

I don’t worry about giving and not having enough money; it always seems to be there, like the jar that won’t run dry. God is the eternal accountant; He balances my checkbook. But He balances more than just financial accounts like my checkbook, He also balances heavenly accounts. But I confess to you, I find these heavenly accounts strange and beyond my understanding.

The worker who works only the last hour is paid the full days wages. The prodigal son who returns is given a feast. And some seemingly unknown women who wait with well-oiled lamps are invited into a wedding feast, while some who appear to be relatives are not.

For the eternal accountant, it doesn’t seem to take much on the Credit side of the ledger to balance against the many Debits. I don’t understand, but I give thanks, and try to do even the small things, even if I don’t have the time, or money, or talent. I trust that He will fix the outcome somehow, if I but try. My Jesus, I trust in You.

Try praying that prayer sometime, and then acting like you mean it, for He IS balancing accounts.

Your wisdom, goodness, and mercy have simply overlooked my many faults and sins. Because of your merciful forgiveness, I have made your charity and love of neighbor my own. Have I been coerced? Not by my own virtues, but by your love. I pray that that same love will cause you to enlighten my mind with the light of faith, so that I may know and understand the truth you have shown me. May I remember your blessings, that I may burn with the fire of your love. May that fire inspire me to give my own body and blood, together with your blood, and then through obedience let me unlock the gate of heaven. With all my heart I beg this same blessing on everyone who makes up the Mystical Body of Christ.

--- from The Dialogue by St. Catherine of Siena (Number 167)

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