Father Kevin’s Reflection – June 12, 2016 – Now is the time to reflect … Especially during this Year of Mercy
I have gotten sickened by those in the media who talk about being “good stewards” of the earth. It has become the 21st century’s version of the worshiping of a Golden Calf. I find it humorous when someone in Washington, DC thinks they know how to care for farmland and animals because they have a window box “organic garden” and a pet dog (or cat)…which they often refer to as members of the family!
The Lord wants us to trust Him in all things, and He knows that trusting Him with our finances is the most practical example of stewardship in the 21st century. God specifically asks us in this week’s readings to do exactly that! He also promises that when you do, He will “pour down blessing upon you without measure.” If we can trust God with our finances, it becomes easier to trust Him in other things as well.
While we should not tithe expecting material blessings, sometimes they occur. The greater lessons I have learned about tithing are detachment and trust. And, take it from me…coming from a successful business with my father in Denver, coming to South Dakota is considered by this world as a downslide. And, NONE of the money we receive as priests is our own; it comes from the generosity of our parishioners, so it should be easy to offer up the first 10% of it. Right? Well, even I struggle to practice tithing.
Even when it is not easy, making that offering builds in our hearts a detachment from money, self-interest, or the “what’s in it for me” attitude. Instead, one turns to a trust in God to provide. In a materialistic age, it reminds us that Jesus is Lord of our lives. But it also is a spiritual offering to God. There is a reason that the collection is symbolically carried up to the altar as part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and offered up with the bread and wine. Spiritually we should offer ourselves up – our time, talent and treasure – during the offertory of each Mass. (This is why the priest offers to God the Father: “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.”)
When stewardship is discussed in parishes, the three T’s mentioned are Time, Talent, and Treasure. But often people hear “just another talk about money.” Stewardship is so much more. It is the offering of our entire selves to God. We have a choice: to live self-willed lives or Christ-centered lives. God gives us all our time, talents and treasure; we should give back to him the first fruits of these gifts.
Fr. Andrew Kemberling (a priest in Denver) once said, “Giving God our skill and our wealth without giving of our self is meaningless. If a man showers his wife with gifts but does not love her, his gestures are empty. If the wife loves the gifts more than him, her actions are equally as empty. Stewardship is truly Spirituality.”
Quite frankly, I find no excuse whatsoever, when people do not commit to giving of their time and talent to build up God’s Kingdom. What would it look like to give God 10% of your time? In a 24-hour day, that adds up to almost two and a half hours (2 hours, 24 minutes) of time given directly to God. The time could be mental prayer, perhaps getting to and attending daily Mass, doing some spiritual reading, praying the rosary each day, and getting involved in at least one ministry of the Church. Perhaps you are called to serve in one of many charitable works in the area (Senior Center, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters, Right to Life groups, Altar Society, (in Hoven) the Treasure Hut, just to name a few). Assisting in the various ministries during the Mass, or visit the elderly in nursing homes, or feed the hungry and clothe the poor comes to mind too.
God does not just want our money – He wants our hearts. He wants us to show Him that we are in love with Him, and that He is in first place. Tithing of our treasure, apart from giving God our talent and our time is empty…like the husband who gives his wife lavish gifts but never spends time with her…or Him. While most people find it difficult to immediately start giving 10% of themselves to God, it is important to try to strive to make that an eventual goal. Maybe, a good gauge to start is by giving at least one hour’s wage to the Lord each week. After all, isn’t it the Lord that provides for your needs now?
Yes…it is wisdom to plan to save for: an emergency fund, short term needs and long term needs. But always make a provision for God first. Allow Jesus Christ to be Lord of your checkbook, too! What amount of the day do you currently give to God in prayer? How do you show Him that you love Him above all things? What are some ways in which you might be able to share more of your gifts (talents) with the Church and your neighbor? Are your priorities really in the right place…if you are too busy for the Lord…your priorities are definitely in the wrong place.