‘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.
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