Recently, I sat down with one of my favorite Gospel passages, Luke 6:27–38. One phrase caught my attention: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6:38)
This phrase brought to mind a vivid memory of my mother teaching me to make chocolate chip cookies. “You only pack brown sugar—never flour or other ingredients,” she advised as she pressed my small hands into a measuring cup containing the brown sugar. You never pack anything but brown sugar.
This image dovetailed into a memory of a friend recounting the first time she made chocolate chip cookies. She looked at the recipe and thought there was way too much sugar in the recipe, so she cut it back to a few tablespoons. Although it seemed like the recipe required an overabundance of sugar, without all of the sugar, the cookies did not taste good and the ingredients did not bond well. The cookies were completely inedible.
I returned again to the passage: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Yet another cookie memory popped up. “God’s love is like the smell of chocolate chip cookies cooking. You know that smell? Mmmm…it permeates everything!” said Fr. Michael in what was fondly known by the undergrads as his “Chocolate Chip Cookie Homily.”
Was I hungry as I read this Gospel? It seems likely! I think there was more to it, though. Sometimes, when I sit down to pray, I encounter distractions and they are just that—distractions. They tend to leave me dry as if I am wandering through a desert. At other times, though, these wanderings in prayer actually reveal an oasis.
In the memories that arose as I read and re-read this Gospel passage, there was a message to be heard: God cannot be outdone in generosity. Like the brown sugar that was packed down and flowing over, Christ’s love is poured out for us in abundance and flowing over. His sacrificial love is the essential ingredient. We taste of its sweetness. We smell the permeating aroma of sweetness.
As I reflect on my experience in prayer, a few questions arise that will surely shape my Lenten journey:
- How might I extend the sweet aroma of Christ’s love to those I meet?
- In what areas of my life can I extend mercy and forgiveness, even though it might seem completely countercultural and even counterintuitive to do so?
- Where in my life can I hold judgment and let God be the judge?
- How, as St. Ignatius said, can I live so generously as “to give and not to count the cost”?