By MATT POTTER
RADICAL JOY — CATHOLIC STEWARDSHIP AND ABUNDANCE
Many years ago, I listened to recordings of a very wise and insightful man named Earl Nightingale.
Earl was old when I was young. I would listen to his gravelly baritone voice spout wisdom every morning on the local radio station, and he so inspired me that I bought sets of his tapes to listen to in my car while driving across the big empty that is Wyoming. (Yes, tapes; I told you it was a long time ago.)
Those tapes held wisdom beyond the ages. In one of them, Earl told his listener that he could have whatever he wanted if he would only put his mind to achieving it. Given his wisdom, his age and his matter-of-fact speech, listening to Earl was like listening to my grandfather.
He always encouraged his listeners to think big. A new refrigerator, a new car, whatever it was you were wanting, if you could conceive it and believe it, you could achieve it.
Our minds, however, want us to keep things reasonable. We know that our resources are limited and scarce, and we take that scarcity into account when we do our planning.
St. Augustine had something to say about this very mindset. In his Tractates on the First Letter of John, the good Doctor of the Church tells us, “The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes you may see and be utterly satisfied.”
He goes on to say that God increases our desire for him, “which in turn enlarges the capacity of our soul, making it able to receive what is about to be given to us.”
God’s love and mercy are abundant, beyond our imagination. He is preparing us to receive the greatest gift, His love, by increasing our capacity to receive it.
In St. Augustine’s letter to his friend Proba, he discusses something similar with respect to prayer. He said:
“Why he should ask us to pray, when he knows what we need before we ask him, may perplex us if we do not realize that our Lord and God does not want to know what we want (for he cannot fail to know it) but wants us rather to exercise our desire through our prayers, so that we may be able to receive what he is preparing to give us. His gift is very great indeed, but our capacity is too small and limited to receive it. That is why we are told: Enlarge your desires, do not bear the yoke with unbelievers.”
The crux of stewardship is the realization that all that we have and all that we are comes from God. Here we have St. Augustine telling us that God wants to give us more by enlarging our soul and increasing our desire to receive what he wants us to have. He also tells us that when we pray, we aren’t entering into some bargaining session with him as he already knows what we need, and he is preparing our hearts to receive a far greater gift than we could ever imagine.
Finally, in a word of caution, he tells us that “…this exercise will be effective only to the extent that we free ourselves from desires leading to infatuation with this world.”
When we let go of our worldly desires and attachments, we increase our desire for God and open our hearts to the abundance he wants us to have, which is greater than anything we could imagine.
Earl Nightingale was an inspirational speaker; but with a focus on the material world, no matter how big he encouraged his listeners to think, it pales in comparison to what God wants us to have. Let us deepen our faith, increase our desire and be prepared to receive the great gift awaiting us.
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