‘Generous’ is a commonly used word. It can describe the characteristics of a person or the size of the serve of chips at the local fish and chip shop. Because it is such a common word, I find it rather bland. For me, a richer meaning comes to life in a couple of older words that are not so commonly used today.
The first is ‘magnanimous’ which comes from the Latin magnus meaning great, and animus meaning soul. A magnanimous person is someone who has ‘great soul’! It is used to describe a person who is being generous or forgiving, especially towards a rival or less powerful person.
The second word is ‘munificent’ which also comes from Latin, munificus meaning bountiful. The definition of munificent is giving or sharing in abundance and without hesitation. It describes someone who is bighearted and bounteous, without hesitation!
God is generous! God is magnanimous, having ‘great soul’. The letter of Paul to the Romans brims with descriptive references to God having ‘great soul’, telling us how even when we were ‘weak and rebellious’ the love of God was poured out on us and now ‘we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!’
God is also munificent, being bighearted and bounteous, sharing everything with us in abundance and without hesitation. In Genesis, Abraham shows us God’s munificence. I love the picture of Abraham who, at 99 years of age, runs to greet three strangers who visit him. Then the almost 100 year old man runs to get a meal ready for them. He is so generous without hesitation. So is God!
And just as God did not wait for everything to be okay with us before being generous to us, so we do not need to wait for everything to be ‘right’ before we are generous in this on-going time of corona virus. And it is not just about being generous with material things or money which may be tight for many in this time of high unemployment and lock-down. But, more challengingly, it can be about giving of our own selves. As Simone Weil insightfully puts it, ‘Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity’. Giving our full attention to God is generous, or giving our undivided attention to those around us is generous. When we have been neglecting our self, giving our self our full, loving attention can be generous. In these simple but challenging ways we can be people who have ‘great soul’, people who are bighearted, even in a time of restrictions and coronavirus.
Image by Anrita1705 from pixabay
As I look outside my window this week, the world around me has been softened with winter rain and leaden skies. I can hear the screech and long guttural cawing of the black cockatoos in the macadamia tree next door. The black cockatoos come each year when the macadamias are ripe and wet with winter rain. Their chorus is raucous noise rather than tuneful song. Yet their welcome arrival, from who knows where, heralds the changing of the seasons. Summer’s simmering heat giving way to winter’s wind and rain. I sense a peace and gentleness in the softened, smiling world, and a joy in the return of wild and raucous beauty.
And as with the shifting season in the world around, so the season of hard lockdown is shifting into a tentative season of new beginnings. And I take a moment to reflect on the inner seasons of my heart and soul, and how deeply the outer seasons reflect and shift my inner world.
I bless you God for the beauty and the harshness of this place, and for the eternal rhythm of the seasons, both inner and outer. How deeply, I, who struggles with change, am also blessed by change.
And as you look upon the world around you this week, may you too be blessed by the mysterious beauty and the eternal rhythm of the seasons, both the inner and outer.
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