Holiness and Generosity: The Wave of the Future

We have been identifying signs of holiness for the 21st century.  So far we have named Joy and Courage as sure signs of holiness, a holiness that is not just of a personal kind but extends to community as a whole.

Mini-documentary exploring some of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s acts of charity, kindness and generosity that inspired millions of people to follow his example and serve their communities. Unreal Documentary

Today we propose another sign, that of generosity.

The older I get, the more I am impressed with generosity as a sure sign of the spirit (and the more I recognize hoarding as the opposite of spirit). Where there is generosity, there is spirit. You ask me, “Who is a spiritual person?” And I reply, a “joyful and courageous and generous person.”

Generosity is about giving of yourself.  Stretching yourself. What Native Americans call a “giveaway.”   Look for generosity. Look for it in yourself. Sister Jose Hobday told a wonderful story (she told many of them actually).  She was invited to speak to a large gathering of nurses and the head nurse inviting her said she should zero in on “burnout” and how awful it is.  She was very controlling and eager to dictate to Jose what she should and should not say.

A Tribute to Sister José Hobday: photos of her life, work and travels in service to the People. Video by Ty Cody; Jane Siberry sings.

Jose, however, always thought for herself.  And her opening line went like this: ”It’s better to have burned out than never to have burned at all.”  And she went on to praise nurses for their work of generosity in helping the sick and what to do about protecting oneself.

Think of the people you most admire—whether public figures or personal acquaintances. How often is generosity a part of their character? Think of Gandhi or Jesus, of Martin Luther King, Jr., or Dorothy Day; of Maya Angelou or Hildegard of Bingen. Of your parents or your grandparents; of a teacher or counselor in your life.

A good teacher is generous—giving time and self to students; a good monk is generous; a good politician; a good parent; a good spouse; a good carpenter; a good artist.

“Dorothy Day and the Holy Family of the Streets.” Painting by iconographer Kelly Latimore. Published with permission; to purchase, click HERE.

It seems to me that they all have generosity in common.

Generosity is about giving from one’s abundance, from the depth of one’s heart, from one’s very soul. Generosity is about giving without a guaranteed return; it is about “give away.”  About working “without a why.”

Generosity takes trust; it takes a willingness to fail. Generosity and Spirit go together.  Love calls forth generosity.  

To be continued.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 379f.

To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.

Banner Image: Feeding the hungry in Shanti community, Nepal. Photo provided by Marianne Grosspietsch. Published with permission. Learn more about the work of the Shanti community in service to the desperately poor, HERE. Donations are welcomed.

Queries for Contemplation

What examples of generosity have you experienced receiving in your life and what difference did it make?

Recommended Reading

Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society

Visionary theologian and best-selling author Matthew Fox offers a new theology of evil that fundamentally changes the traditional perception of good and evil and points the way to a more enlightened treatment of ourselves, one another, and all of nature. In comparing the Eastern tradition of the 7 chakras to the Western tradition of the 7 capital sins, Fox allows us to think creatively about our capacity for personal and institutional evil and what we can do about them. 
“A scholarly masterpiece embodying a better vision and depth of perception far beyond the grasp of any one single science.  A breath-taking analysis.” — Diarmuid O’Murchu, author of Quantum Theology: Spiritual Implications of the New Physics

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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16 thoughts on “Holiness and Generosity: The Wave of the Future”

  1. Avatar

    This past weekend I was on the receiving end of the generosity of a group of high school alumni that hosted about 2,000 of us over 2 1/2 days. Get togethers, reconnecting, celebrations, song, dance and all of the Spirit led activities and caring that have kept us together throughout the years. It was glorious time spent together that engaged our hearts, minds, bodies and souls in this cherished and interwoven ‘community’. — BB.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Generousity – a Glorious time spent together….
      so good! thanks for sharing your recent experience…

  2. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    Everything in creation has been blessed with beautiful and good gifts of itself to giveaway; that are unique to each one. The Earth, Air, Water and Fire, the Plant World, the Mineral World, the Animal World, the Human World and The Spirit World; all giveaway to the whole, in diverse ways. These gifts and the giveaway, given and received; are all interconnected and interrelational one to another; creating the Great Webb of Life.

    When any part of the whole, withholds it’s gifts, the uniqueness of its giveaway; it impacts the intricate weave of the whole fabric of existence. Humanity, it appears, is the only species that at times seems to withhold giving, from that which each one has already received… the Fruit of the Spirit, and the beauty and goodness of these; which is already seeded and sealed within oneself… the necessary giveaway that this world needs.

    The iconic image that arises is that of the pomegranate, often depicted in religious/spiritual paintings associated with the image of the Divine Mother, the Sacred Feminine.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Hi Jeanette,
      I, like many, love pomegranate. I love the crimson color, the red tangy distinctive flavor, the individual way each seed is encased in a juicy mini-womb, “sealed and seeded within oneself…the necessary giveaway – THAT HIS WORLD NEEDS” – succulent with the promise of life. Your reflection brought me to thinking about the fruit with new appreciation today. Thank you.

  3. Avatar

    I once heard Jose Hobday speak at a conference. She spoke of her two dresses. She would wear one while washing the other. My shopping ceased on that day. What a beautiful soul!

  4. Richard E Reich

    Today you ask: “What examples of generosity have you experienced receiving in your life and what difference did it make?” What you gave us at UCS was the most generous act in my spiritual life ever !!! And sister Jose, the “Holy Rascal” was a major gift there, and to me too. And her stories… I remember her meeting with the Dali Lama, when she greeted him with, “Hello Dolly…” She was full of them. Thank you for Jose and UCS.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Beautiful, deeply meaningful, touching memories, Richard.
      Thank you for sharing with those of us who feel your shared memory as it resonates with our personal memories. Thank you for sharing with others first-hand the power of the generosity of Joy! “Hello Dolly…” modeled by the “Holy Rascal!”
      When I remember José, I often think of Roses and the Flower Pelting Ritual of honoring. She taught with Joy, to be Joy! She had a knack for straight-talk to one’s heart and the gift to lift one up, bringing new energy to tender hearts.
      Richard, Thanks for the memory.

  5. Avatar

    Our Loving Mother~Father Creator~Source~Spirit Is Always within, through, among Us flowing in our hearts, our daily compassionate lives with one another, in sacred and beautiful Mother Nature and all Her living creatures and graceful abundance, and within All our Living sacred physical and non-physical spiritual multidimensional-multiverse Cosmos of ongoing co-Creation~Evolution of Diverse Loving Oneness….

  6. Avatar

    Thank you for this teaching. I have been studying consciousness as the source of all reality. There certainly cannot be any more generous possibility than a fully conscious God or source generating all of reality.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Thanks, Ed.
      I love the quote Matthew shared from Hafiz, as a metaphor for that generative source you mention.

      “Even after all this time, The Sun never says to the Earth,
      ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that.
      It lights the whole sky.”

  7. Avatar

    When I was around 10 years old, my grandfather sent me $10 for my birthday. We were Baptists. That was a generous gift in 1956. I wrote him a thank you from Arizona to New Jersey, letting him know that I had given $1.00 of it to the church, a tithe I’d always been taught to give. About a week later (when it was still safe to send money through the mail), he sent me another $10–with a note saying that God will always provide more to us than we give. He carefully explained that God would not always give in this way, but God would always give more than we have given. Perhaps that is one reason why I have always believed that I will always have enough, that I have never been afraid to give, and that I have always believed that God will provide all I need and more. Our actions, especially toward children, have consequences.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Michele, Thank you for sharing your Grandfather-God experience.
      A powerful lesson of generosity that formed your childhood trust into the firm relationship with God you know today. Wonderful life story.

  8. Avatar

    I have been blessed by many generous people, and it leads not only to an enhanced generosity within me but also to gratitude and awe for the gifts so freely given. I am called to pass on these gifts in every way possible, at whatever cost.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Thank you, Sue.
      I wonder if your experience of “whatever cost” is that you are always refilled, re-fired, rekindled in some way; perhaps in a way you never expected – for the next giving opportunity?

  9. Avatar

    It was a delight to learn about Jose Hobday and to add Generosity to the list of signs of holiness. I’ve been the recipient of generosity so much lately, when I really needed it, and it inspires me to look for opportunities to be generous also.

    1. Avatar
      Carol Vaccariello

      Hi Sue,
      I’m responding to your delight in learning about Sister José.
      I don’t recall if Matthew mentioned the book Sister José wrote , SIMPLE LIVING, the Path to Joy and Freedom. You might find it soul-food. In it she shares the elements of Simple Living she sees as leading to a life of Joy and Freedom.

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