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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

God Gives Matching Grants

Most of us are probably familiar with the concept of “matching grants.” They can work in a variety of ways. If we contribute $100 to a non-profit like PBS, for example, they will sometimes have a company or donor who will match that donation. In other words, that company or donor will also contribute $100 to PBS to match yours. Or sometimes the grant organization will say to a non-profit’s request: We will award you the grant to build that children’s playground, but first you must raise 20% from other donors. Matching grants are a way to broaden fund raising efforts. In simple terms, it also means no one—not the requester, not the donor, and not the grant awarder—has to do all the work!

In her new book, A Little Book of Light: Sparks of Hope, Moments of Prayer, Alice Camille (a favorite writer of mine) implies that God gives us matching grants. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he gave his disciples a daunting task: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). To the ends of the earth?! Yikes! Sometimes I can’t even be a witness to Jesus in my own house!

So much of the spiritual life consists in planting seeds… (Photo by Binyamin Mellish – Pexels)

But the key part of this evangelization mission is the power of the Holy Spirit. Camille writes, “If it were strictly up to you and me, Christianity would hardly make it down the block.” She says that this vital role of the Spirit in our lives “doesn’t mean we get to relax in our rocking chairs” and let the Spirit do all the work. No, the Spirit lives in us. “It moves in concert with our efforts.” I do my part (which might be 10% or at times even only 1%), and the Spirit does the rest. Says Camille, “It’s the best matching grant in the universe!”

Perhaps no story in the gospel illustrates “God’s matching grant” better than the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. In Mark’s version, Jesus has just finished talking to a huge crowd—4,000 people. He is moved with pity for them, because they are hungry. His disciples share his concern. They moan, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy here in this deserted place?” Jesus asks them, “How many loaves do you have?” They answer, “Seven.” We know what happens next. Jesus tells the people to sit on the ground. Then he takes the loaves in his hands, offers thanks, breaks them, and hands them to his disciples to distribute. Jesus does the same with the fish. The people eagerly eat and “are satisfied.” And there are even leftovers—seven baskets worth!

This story doesn’t merely describe something that happened over 2,000 years ago. It describes something that continues to happen today in our world, our church, our parishes, our homes. We do not have to do all the work to make our world a better place. We have only to begin, only to do our small part, only to give what we can—and the Spirit will do the rest. Sometimes the Spirit will act through others who join our efforts, and sometimes the Spirit will act in ways we can only marvel at.

It’s never too early to learn about the miracle of seeds… (Photo by Anna Shvets – Pexels)

I often see the Spirit acting in my talks and writing. Sometimes a listener will tell me how much they appreciated something I said, and I don’t even remember saying it. Or if I do remember saying it, this listener heard it in a way I didn’t intend, but in a way she needed to hear it and draw encouragement from it. Or I write an article, and someone tells me their favorite sentence, and that sentence might be the one I almost deleted because I thought it was superfluous.

Alice Camille concludes with another allusion to scripture. She says, “Even though the yield of the soil to one hundredfold comes from God, the sower still has to get off the recliner and plant the seed. We do our little part, so the Spirit can multiply it.”

What seed might I plant today?

For reflection:

Have you ever experienced the Holy Spirit “multiplying” something little that you gave?

Can you think of anything which is now big and beautiful that started out as something small?

Here is a song by Dan Feiten called “Seed, Scattered and Sown.” Perhaps you may have sung this song in your church.

Once again I invite you to write a comment below! Don’t be shy… Thank you!

14 Responses

  1. Good morning, Sr. Melannie…

    Another great blog, another great book recommendation! Alice Camille’s insight concerning the Holy Spirit is just terrific. Never have I thought of the Holy Spirit as one of those benefactors who will match your donation, only as Alice suggests, the Hold Spirit does so much more than just match the gift. As a teacher (and I’m sure this has happened to you), I have had former students say to me, “Remember when you said…” And in all honesty, sometimes I don’t! I recently got messaged on Facebook by a former students from the late 80s. Her name is Katrina, and she’s now a teacher. Anyway, she said some really wonderful things that were a balm to a tired teacher’s soul, but that I was hard pressed to recall! But as Maya Angelou famously said (a bit of a paraphrase), “Your students will not always remember what you taught, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” The Holy Spirit goes beyond books. She goes to the seat of feeling: the heart!

    1. Where r the replies. Maybe this will work, if I send one, hopefully I will be able to read others sharings. Just trying to do my 1%.

  2. I read various materials for my prayer time. Sunflower Seeds is by far my favorite. It’s always so “real life” and relatable. I take many good thoughts away each week, aspiring to put them into practice. Thank you for lovingly sharing your gifts of wisdom, writing, deep-seated faith and so much more.

  3. Dear Sister Melannie,
    I would like to thank you for sharing your love for God and others through your writing, other ministries and especially through your prayers. I am currently reading your book, Traits of a Healthy Spirituality, for a class. It is a great book and I would like to use some quotes from it for my parish bulletin inserts if I may have your permission. Thank you, Sister!
    For the “God’s Matching Grants”, I just experienced it a few weeks/months ago. I went to visit my family overseas this past summer and our parishioners, friends, and children here in the United States collected funds for any needy children in my village. When I met with the parents and PTU of my little village’s Catholic School, they told me, “Sister, if you give us money for our children’s school supplies or tuition, that will only solve this year’s problem. Instead, we would like you to take a look at the classrooms and see what you can do.” They preferred a “seed” that will grow and bear fruit year after year. When I toured the school, I could not believe what I saw. Right then and there, we decided to hire five men to fix the classrooms. I gave them two weeks to work on it because I had to return to the US and wanted to have pictures brought back with me. When I shared about my trip with our parishioners and showed them the before and after pictures and the difference they made on the children’s lives, they were so touched. They asked me if there was anything else in the school that need to be done. I said, “the roof, the floor and the children’s desks could be replaced. One gentleman stood up and said, “Someone- he knows who this person is but I don’t- will match any donations toward this project.” Ahh! Their generosity and kindness are just the little boy’s fish and loaves that Jesus took and multiplied to feed the multitude. I am so grateful for them. Yes, when we give 1-10% of our gifts back to God, He can work wonders with them. On top of that, He still bless us with hundredfold! Thank you, God!

  4. Sr. Josephine, Yes, you may use quotes from my writings. But my publisher always asks that you cite the author (that’s me!) and the source.

    Thank you for your true and inspiring story. It really does demonstrates the generosity of so many good people! It gives me hope. Thank you for sharing this story with all of us! Melannie

    1. Good morning, Sister. I have not received your weekly blog in many weeks- perhaps months now. I went to resubscribe, thinking my name had been dropped from the list. The reply was that I would have to wait to resubscribe. I don’t understand that reply. Is there a way for this situation to be rectified?
      I truly miss your posts from week to week!
      Many blessings,
      Kathleen Sullivan

  5. Thank you Sister Melannie for planting many seeds. They grown and their seeds have been spread. Many have been Blessed by them.

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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