A word from Pope Francis ~ “To live as true children of God means to love our neighbor and to be close to those who are lonely and in difficulty.”
As we celebrate the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we move into the final stretch of this Church Year. We have one more Sunday and then conclude with the Feast of Christ the King. For the present, we are 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 commitment weekend. Today’s Gospel of the poor widow totally placing her trust in God’s generosity towards her is a challenging example for each one of us. She knew that everything she had was God’s gift to her. Witnessing her trust challenges us to be disciples who are filled with gratitude and to live a life of total surrender and dependence upon God alone. We are also challenged to respond to God’s desire that we be faithful stewards of the gifts God has generously given to us. This Gospel provides us with a wonderful opportunity for us to hold our commitment weekend this weekend. We are committing to all three aspects of Stewardship – Time, Talent and Treasure – on the same weekend. Our recommitment materials were mailed to arrive in each parishioner’s home last week.
As Catholic Christians, we believe that everything we have is God’s gift to us. All that we have and are is a gift from God who loves us more than we can ever understand. We have lived through very difficult times this past year and a half. The COVID pandemic has taken a toll on us all. But the restlessness that we feel can be an invitation to turn to God in new ways than before. We can take our cue from Saint Augustine who also experienced a similar restlessness in his life. His inner turmoil led him to a deeper realization – “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
We can receive God’s gifts with open hands and say ‘thank you,” or respond with closed fists and claim God’s gifts as “mine!” Whatever our response, God’s gifts continue to flow. If we receive them with open, grateful hands, God’s gifts can flow through us and bless those around us. Our call is to gratefully receive God’s gifts with open hands, let them bless us and then flow through us to bless others. We may have begun life as babies with clenched fists claiming everything is “Mine!” But our call is to become grateful stewards of everything we receive and to share them. Today we have an opportunity to take the next step in living our lives as grateful stewards and recommit ourselves to sharing!
One of the traditional aspects of the month of November is our prayerful remembrance of those who have gone before us in faith. We celebrated our annual Parish Memorial Mass on November 2nd. There we remembered by name those of our parish who died this past year and included all those entered in our Book of Remembrance. Our parish Book of Remembrance is now at the front of the Church near the Holy Oils, Baptism font and Easter Candle. If you were not able to enter the names of your beloved dead 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.
If you have been attending Sunday Mass through our live streamed Masses and feel comfortable, please consider joining with us in person. The live stream Mass may have filled in a void, but nothing beats being here in person. If you feel like your “soul is hungry,” it is! Nothing can replace the gift of the Eucharist in our lives. We are fully open for in person prayer – no advance reservations are needed. Come and be nourished.
As Veterans Day is observed this Thursday, I offer the following “Veterans Day Prayer:”
Lord, we know that freedom isn’t free and a special few pay the price for many. We owe a debt of gratitude to all the courageous men and women who have served and sacrificed to protect us and our freedoms. Today as we remember our veterans, we ask you to bless each one and meet their every need. We pray that they will know how valued, respected and appreciated they are. Bless their families for their many sacrifices as well. We ask for your protection over all who are serving now and ask you to bring them home safely. We also ask you to comfort all who are missing someone who served. Amen.
As we mark the seasonal time change to Central Standard Time on Sunday morning, the beauty of autumn is waning as the leaves drop from the trees. The earth is preparing for the death of winter. Our Scripture readings will soon turn our focus upon the end times and our ultimate destiny with God. It is time to focus on the truly important things. May we do so as best as we can. As always, may God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy