After celebrating last weekend’s Solemnities of All Saints and All Souls, we now celebrate the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time and near the end of our reading of Mark’s Gospel. Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem. He spends his final days teaching in the Temple. In the midst of his teaching, Jesus takes time to observe the Temple worshippers as they placed their offerings in the Temple treasury. One poor widow stands out among wealthy contributors to the treasury. Though one of the poorest members of Jewish society, she contributes two coins of the smallest denomination, giving generously from the depths of her poverty. She recognized that everything she had was God’s gift to her and she trusted that God’s generosity would continue. Jesus commends her act of complete trust in God’s care for her. It is an example that he himself will soon follow as he willingly enters into his Passion and Death.
Each autumn we conduct our annual Stewardship as a Way of Life renewal process and hold our Stewardship commitment weekend. As a response to the example of the widow in this weekend’s Gospel, we are holding our commitment weekend this weekend. Given that living a life of Christian Stewardship is a life-long process, we have named our commitment weekend as “Next Step Weekend 2015.” At the recommendation of the Stewardship Council, we are committing to all three aspects of Stewardship – Time, Talent and Treasure – on the same weekend. Our Next Step Weekend 2015 materials were mailed to arrive in each parishioner’s home last week.
Our annual Stewardship Renewal process is a time when we, as disciples of the Lord Jesus, prayerfully review our commitment to live our lives as faithful stewards of the gifts God has freely given to us. On this Next Step Weekend 2015 I am speaking at each Mass as we make our commitments of our time, talent and treasure for the coming year.
Any consideration of embracing “Stewardship as a Way of Life” needs to begin with the humble recognition that everything we have is God’s gift to us. Everything is a gift. All that we have and are is a gift from God who loves us more than we can ever understand. Once we let this truth settle into our hearts, our only appropriate response is gratitude! All we can do is say, “thank you,” and then freely share what we have received.
The widow in today’s Gospel reading responded by giving 100%! Jesus, himself followed her example by giving 100% when he opened his arms on the cross for us. Their examples could not be more challenging! Don’t we profess that everything that we have comes to us as a gift from God? Our life, our faith, the people who are a part of our lives, our talents and skills, our possessions … everything comes to us as a gift from God. Even the bread and wine that we offer to God at every Mass is already God’s gift to us. We have been blessed beyond anything we could ever deserve or earn. It is all a gift.
Both Jesus and the Gospel widow were at a point in their lives where they were able to give 100% in response to God’s generosity to them. Our situations are a bit different. We all have different responsibilities and obligations according to our callings. We may not be able to give 100% back to God until the moment when we take our last breath and give our lives back to God. Each day though gives us an opportunity to take the “next step” toward that ultimate goal. For now, the church encourages us to follow the Biblical Tithe of returning 10% of what we have received back to the Lord. That 10% is broken down to 5% to our local church, our parish, 1% to the larger church, the Diocese (especially through the Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal), and the remaining 4% to additional appeals and charities close to our hearts. For me, that last 4% includes the seminaries that educated me. Over the past several years, I have served as Ordination Class representative and have written the letters to my classmates for the St. Meinrad School of Theology Annual Alumni Appeal.
But for each of us, what is the next step in living our lives as faithful stewards of all God has given us? What is my next step in returning a portion of my Time to the Lord? Could it be attending Mass with our community every weekend? Or arriving on time and staying until we are blessed and sent out? Could it be finding additional time to spend with the Lord in quiet prayer? What is my next step in returning a portion of my Talents to the Lord? Could I find a personal favorite ministry of our parish and share my talents with that ministry? Is there something beyond the parish that serves our community or a cause close to my heart where I can share my talents? What is my next step in returning a portion of my Treasure to the Lord? Am I at the 5% goal yet? Do I return to God from my first fruits or give from my left overs? I invite each of us to move towards the goal of tithing and encourage you to begin (or continue) honoring God with a percentage of your income instead of a specific dollar amount. These are all important questions for us to ask on this Next Step Weekend 2015. As I firmly believe in the importance of leading by example, I have already responded with my completed response card. Please join me in making your personal commitment on our Nest Step Weekend 2015. Thank you for all that you have done in the past and what will be made possible through our new commitments this weekend. May God guide us and bless in our responses.
One of the traditional aspects of the month of November is our prayerful remembrance of those who have gone before us in faith. Our parish Book of Remembrance is now at the front of the Church near the Baptistery and the Easter Candle. If you were not able to add the names of your beloved dead in the book for our All Souls Day Masses, please feel free to add these names to our Book of Remembrance. We continue to remember all of our beloved dead in prayer during this month of November.
We are happy to again provide the “Little Blue Books for Advent/Christmas” this year. Both English and Spanish editions will be available next weekend, November 14/15. These Little Books give us brief daily reflections during these two special seasons of the church year and then invite us “to spend some quiet time with the Lord.” With all of the activity coming up in the weeks ahead, here is a good opportunity to keep our balance through individual, personal prayer.
As always, I pray that God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy