No Money in Their Belts

(Homily for Fifteenth Ordinary Sunday, Year B)

This year at our annual priests days, I received a dubious distinction. The health check revealed that I had the lowest level of body fat of anyone present. Last year I was fifteen percent which was fine, in fact a little below the normal level of twenty-two percent. This year to my surprise it was seven percent. My weight was about the same, but somehow my body composition had shifted. The nurse inquired if I had any major changes in my life.

“Like what?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, “maybe a change in diet or exercise.” Apart from long walks with my dog, I couldn’t think of anything I was doing very different. Then she suggested, “Perhaps stress?”

“Bingo,” I thought. Besides the normal tensions of life and parish ministry, there has been one additional factor this past year: finances. Not personal - as a priest, although I am certainly not getting rich, I am taken care of fine. But so many parishioners out of work – and the strained economic situation of the parish itself. I have found myself obsessing, even losing sleep about it.

Sometimes when people come to me with financial troubles, after looking at what can be done practically, I will ask what is the worst that could happen. None of the possibilities are pleasant: losing a home, car, health insurance, educational opportunities for children. But even if the most dire event occurred, some good things would remain: loved ones; time to read a library book, to pray or walk; children who value our time more than any gift.

Regarding parish finances, I likewise ask what would be the worst that could happen if they continue to decline. I have already faced what I dreaded the most – letting staff members go. Beyond cutting staff and programs, other unpleasant prospects include: roofs and plumbing go unrepaired, sale of some parish property, increased debt to the Archdiocese, shelving the dream of a new gym and hall. Still, supposing the worst took place, wonderful things would remain: the sacraments, the bonds among parishioners, the children who look to us even if we could not provide a school.

Jesus sent his disciples with “no food, no sack, no money in their belts.” (Mk 6:8)

It's time for me - and you - to again meditate on those words.* Of course, I intend to encourage stewardship so the material and other needs of the parish can be met. And to continue to pray for those in our parish who are unemployed.

In the meantime refocus on mission:

preach repentance,
drive out demons,
anoint the sick and cure them. (vv. 12-13)

And I hope next year not to have the lowest percentage of body fat.

************

*A man who earnestly lived those words was St. Francis of Assisi. Of him Chesterton said:

"He was above all things a great giver; and he cared chiefly for the best kind of giving which is called thanksgiving. He knew that we can best measure the towering miracle of the mere fact of existence if we realize that but for some strange mercy we should not even exist."

Versión Castellana

From Archives (15th Ordinary Sunday - Year B):

2015: Building on Strength Week 2: Teaching Authority of Church
2012: The Source
2009: Repent and Pray
2006: No Money in Their Belts
2003: No Money in Their Belts (same title, different homily)
2000: About the "Right to Choose"

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