Have We Not One Father?

(Homily for Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A)

There is a humorous story told about a family that was coming out of Mass. The man says to his wife, “That wasn’t much of sermon that father gave.” The wife then adds, “Yea, and the choir sang off key.” Meanwhile, their small son has been listening to his parents conversation. Finally, he speaks up, “It seemed all right to me,” he says, “especially considering that it only cost us a dollar!”

That of course is one approach to Sunday giving. Today I want to talk to you about a very different approach. It is called Stewardship and we will be hearing more about it the next couple of weeks as we have our annual Stewardship Campaign. I want to put it in the context of this Sunday’s readings. From the prophet Malachi we can see the main focus. He asks a simple, but very profound question:

Have we not all the one father?

In a sense the entire Bible is a response to that question. It shows that in spite all the trials and difficulties of life, we do have one father: God himself. In the New Testament Jesus invites us to participate in his own eternal relationship with Him.

Once when I made a retreat, the spiritual director encouraged me to meditate on the God as my Father. I cannot remember what Scripture passage I was using, but I remember vividly the image which came into my mind. When I was about seven years old, my dad carried me across a field. The index finger on my left hand was bleeding profusely. I had been playing in a barn with my older brothers and had gotten the finger too close to the gears of a corn grinder that my brother was turning. The strange thing is that I do not remember the pain. It must have been intense, but I have forgotten it. What I do remember is my dad carrying me.

I have returned to that image often when I think about God the Father. Especially during times when we are hurting, he wants to carry us. Those are the moments we need to turn to God, not run from him. He will carry us.

I still have a scar on that index finger – and I feel a little arthritis in the cold, but I do not mind. The scar makes me think about my dad. He had plenty of faults; he was far from a perfect father like you would see in television programs. But he did carry me in a time of need.

Jesus tells us to call no man “father” because we have only one Father in heaven. I don’t think Jesus is saying we should drop titles of respect and affection - and start addressing our dads (or our priests) by their first name. No, what Jesus wants us to do is to honor our fathers by seeing in them a reflection of divine fatherhood.

God does want to care for us, even to carry us when we are wounded. He desires to provide every legitimate need. This brings me to the theme of Stewardship. God gives us everything. As a sign of our gratitude, we set aside the first portion for him. Sometimes people say, “I will give God more time when I am older; now I am too busy.” Or, “When I get on a better financial footing, then I will start tithing, giving the first ten percent to God.”

The idea of tithing can seem a little scary. What will happen to me, what will happen to my family, if I set aside the first ten percent for God? But, really, the only thing to do is to take God at his word and get started. I’d like to give an example which might surprise you: the American businessman John D. Rockefeller. You could probably find things to criticize about him, but one thing that he did all of his life was tithe. He came from a fairly modest family and he tells about getting his first wage: $1.50 a week. He took the money home to his mother who placed it in her lap, explaining that she would be happy if he gave a tenth of it to the Lord. He did and from that day, Rockefeller tithed every dollar he earned. He said, “If I had not tithed the first dollar I made, I would not have tithed the first million.” The important thing about tithing is to get started, to take the leap of faith. Many have even discovered that once they gave back ten percent, it seemed natural to actually increase the proportion of giving.

Now, I am not saying, “tithe and you will become a millionaire.” That may or may not happen. What I ask is that you join me in recognizing the great blessings you and I have already received. Think about it. You have been given gifts of energy, abilities, opportunities, and, above all, the gift of time itself. Consider first how you can return some of your time and talents to God. Most afternoons I see dads and moms out on our soccer field, coaching children. What a beautiful gift of time and talent! In our bulletin we have placed a list of the various needs we have here in our parish: worship, faith formation, service, parish life and facilities. Each area is vital. Take a look at the list and consider where you might help. We especially need people who can help us organize different ministries.

We of course need your gifts of financial resources. Next Sunday families from our parish will be giving testimonies about how God has called them to be good stewards. Each family has different circumstances. But, you know, we all have one father. He has given us marvelous gifts. To reiterate once again our Stewardship theme: God owns it all. We are called to share.


Final Version

Spanish Version

From Archives (for Twenty-Ninth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2011: Against All Forms of Idolatry
2005: Have We Not One Father?
2002: Call No Man Father

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