The One Essential Thing: Generosity

poverty, children, neighbor


According to The Seven Pillars of Catholic Spirituality, Mass is the third pillar – after Confession and Contemplation. Yet what exactly do we expect to get out of Mass? Are we preoccupied with the ‘cosmetics’ of the Mass – music, priest, parishioners, or other human trappings – or are we there for the nourishment of our souls?

In one segment of his inspirational presentation, Matthew Kelly encourages listeners to become aware of the ‘one thing’ in reference to the Mass. He suggests investing in a small journal to take to Mass each Sunday. In it, we are instructed to write ‘the one thing’ that speaks to us in our topic of inspiration during Mass.  According to Kelly, after a year of listing our ‘one thing, we would own the “most powerful spiritual reference” – a guide to help us to more fully live out our Catholic faith.


The one thing still on my mind when I attended Mass this past Sunday was,”What would become my one thing? Would I really be able to hone in on one particular topic and expand my efforts in that direction?”

As I listened to the readings, sang the Responsorial Psalm, and moved on to the Gospel I became aware of a theme. Not only was our substitute priest a 20 year veteran of missionary work, but the focus of the scriptures was trending toward generosity – doing for the least of these.

It Isn’t Just About the Poor

However, our generosity can, and should, extend beyond the poor in Haiti and other Third World countries. Yes, the poor will always be with us, yet we are bound to give in charity to the limits of our generosity. There is more demanded of us. Are we generous with our time and talents? Does our generosity extend to family, friends, and community? How about our parish? What do we share of ourselves with these?

Creative Generosity

Surely, the one thing which comes to mind is giving alms – donating money or perhaps even a trip to Haiti, to minister to the poorest of the poor. But there is more to be done. Generosity can mean engaging people in talking about spirituality – the sharing of the Good News. In this sense, evangelization is generosity because we are sharing our time in the pursuit of sharing the Word of God with others.

Generosity can also take the form of watching our tongues. Do we really need to share this or that story about someone? Wouldn’t it be more generous to leave information private, if there is no good reason for sharing? Thoughtful silence can, therefore, exemplify generosity.

Looking into the eyes of strangers with a smile, listening to a child spin a winding tale that takes way too long, or a commiserating hug for someone in mental anguish – all of these give witness to generosity.

God Still Speaks Today

God hasn’t left the human race. He wasn’t content to speak only to Adam, Moses, or His Disciples. Kelly reminds us that, “It isn’t that God has stopped speaking, it’s that we’ve stopped listening”.  What part do we play in our own formation? “He wants to speak to you in your life” and help you become the best version of yourself, explains Kelly. Every time we open up our hearts to the unitive message of God, we will find more inspiration for generosity.  There are no limits to the methods we can employ to do the Will of God.

Finding Our One Thing

Now that the mission has been identified, we are ready to take the challenge. As Kelly suggests, write this line in your journal: “God, show me one way in this Mass I can become a better version of myself this week”. Bring your journal to church, arrive early, and be open to the voice of God. Listen. The music, prayers, quiet of your heart, and readings – all of these components will coagulate into a theme, the one thing. Write it down and let it become a prayer during Mass. The one thing will color your perceptions of what is happening there as Heaven meets earth.

What Now?

Fully armed with the inspiration with which we have been gifted we face the coming week, and the world, focused and invigorated, and energized. Kelly reminds us that, “Our lives change when our habits change”. As we begin the journey of living the one thing we will gain everything we need to make a difference. When we count ourselves as one of many who are working to transform their lives, we can awaken a sleeping giant. This sleeping giant of our combined efforts can change the world. With God at the helm, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

He said to them: The things that are impossible with men, are possible with God. Luke 18:27

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