Media CenterCarolyn Woo’s CNS Column – God's Abundance

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By Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
November 2014

In the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) guest dining room in our Baltimore headquarters building, the left wall is decorated with pictures of grains, plants, trees, water and the inscription, "We shall see the bounty of the Lord..." The passage from Psalm 27:13 is completed on the opposing wall with the words, "in the land of the living" where it is accompanied by pictures of people enjoying the gifts of the earth.

CRS' work, though it takes place amid the worst deprivations—of food, medical care, education, livelihood opportunities, or justice—is premised on our faith in God's abundance. The cause of these sufferings is not that God has not provided enough but that we have not been good stewards in the way we take and give back.

A misinterpretation of God's abundance has led many down the path of MORE: buying more, having more, building more, storing more, using more, wasting more, needing more. We now know that this is not sustainable as a way of living and definitely not a way to honor God's abundance.

To turn away from a consumerist approach to God's abundance, I propose three contrasts, each seen through a pair of words: verbs, nouns and pronouns.

Verbs: to hoard versus to give. Scripture, most directly illustrated in Luke 12, the parable of the rich fool who built the barn for his surpluses, clearly tells us that when abundance leads to hoarding, we are in big trouble. Over and over again, Christ summoned us to give, to serve, to feed His flock. Each of us must discern what is appropriate preparation for the future and what is too much? What is responsible planning and what is faith?

Nouns: things versus life. Christ reminded us, "I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly." (John 10:10). Even in Genesis, when God bequeathed to humankind His handiwork, whereby everything He made was "good," it is to allow us to "be fertile and multiply," or to live life fully, to know and love Him through His creation. God's abundance is to lead us to life in Him, not to things in place of Him.

Pronouns: me versus us. God casts His love for all, His bounty without exclusion for the entire land of the living. Abundance is for us, all of us, not just for me. Economics posits that all the needs of every person cannot be met. I, trained in the discipline, ascribe to this. But those needs that are essential for human flourishing and dignity can be and must be met for everyone. This is not just from my observations through the work of development, but ultimately it is the promise of God and the expression of the God of love for all.

May we turn our hearts and minds to God's abundance this Thanksgiving season.

Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo is the president & CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the official overseas humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. This article is part of her ongoing monthly column, Our Global Family, written for Catholic News Service. You can follow Dr. Woo on Twitter at @WooCRS.

Read Dr. Woo’s previous columns

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