Bottom line: God gives it all - and then calls us to share. We will only find happiness when, like the widow, we make a hundred percent return to him.
This Sunday we focus on Stewardship. I want to begin by putting your minds at ease. I am not going to ask you to tithe. Nor am I going ask you to give five percent or even one percent. What I am going ask you for is this: The same that Jesus did - everything, one hundred percent. We see that in today's Gospel. Even though wealthy people made large contributions, Jesus praised the widow who gave two small coins. Why did he single her out? Jesus tells us: "She, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood."
Jesus wants to turn our lives upside down, to have a complete change of heart. This is vital for Stewardship. Our theme this year is: God gives it all- then calls us to share. That is the key to happiness.
I would like to illustrate this by first talking about Stewardship of Time. What I value most is time. I don't think I am alone. I have noticed young people trying to accomplish two or more tasks at once: talking on the cell phone, listening to the radio, eating a snack - and driving a car. All of us value our time; it is the most precious gift we can give to one another - and to God.
Last week we asked you to make a conscious commitment of at least two hours a week to prayer and service, beginning with participation at weekly Mass. That is where we have to start. God gives it all: One hundred and sixty-eight hours a week. Besides Sunday Mass many people made a commitment to pray together with their family, to say grace at meals, to do Scripture reading and Eucharistic Adoration. They also made explicit the time they wanted to spend with members of their family or helping in the community. God gives it all - then calls us to share. When I start the day with that attitude, I find that God does give me time for the things that matter - including things like walking my dog, reading a book and talking with friends. But it is not my time. God gives it all.
If you have made commitment to Stewardship of Time, you have already done the hard part. Stewardship of Treasure should be easy. Even so, I sometimes find myself reluctant to ask people to give because they are often stretched - especially young families dealing with debts and unpaid bills. But, you know, an amazing thing happens when we recognize that God gives it all. When we give the first portion back to him, things start to change. I know people who have tithed their way out of debt. They set aside the first ten percent for God - and the rest fell into its proper place. Now, as I said in the beginning, I am not asking you to tithe. Recognize that God gives it all and then decide what part you will give back to him through supporting your parish. For some, that will mean five percent, for others, ten; for others, something else. That is between you and God - but as your pastor I would like to know so I can prudently form a budget plan for our parish. That's why I am asking you to fill our Stewardship card: so your giving will be planned, deliberate, conscious and sacrificial.
As you make your decision, you have before you the example of the widow in today's Gospel. Do you ever wonder what happened to that beautiful woman? Was she like the widow in the first reading - making one last gesture before she died? Or, once again like the Old Testament widow, did God provide for her in some unexpected way? In the Sixth Chapter of Acts we hear about widows whom the apostles and deacons cared for. Was she part of that group? We don't know. What we do know is that her extraordinary gift is not only an example for us, but it actually mirrors God's love. When he gives, he lets go - just like the widow did. He calls to share, but he does not force us. God gives us time, abilities and financial resources. Then he calls us to share.
From Archives (Homilies for 32nd Sunday, Year B):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Stewardship, Fr. Pavone - Supreme Court Hearing on Partial Birth Abortion, Prayers for Bishops' Meeting in Baltimore)
From Dawn: Two Lives Saved (a beautiful video of a mom and her son saved from abortion)
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Vegans for Food Equality (inspired by Catholics for Marriage Equality
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Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru
(new, professional website)