Sept. 12, 2010 — Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Summary: The parable of the Prodigal Son illustrates God’s loving and generous character. The father gave to the younger son, who wasted what he had received, but then forgave him and welcomed him home. The father also forgave the older son, who had stayed home but resented his father’s generosity. We are called to imitate the father by sharing what has been given to us and by welcoming all who are seeking God.
The fifteenth chapter of St. Luke contains three parables of Jesus, including the one probably the best known of all, that of the Prodigal Son. We’re all familiar with the story: A man has two sons. The younger asks for his share of the inheritance while his father is still alive. He goes off and spends it all in wild living. Poverty-stricken, he decides to return home, because his father’s servants are better off than he is. His father welcomes him, forgiving him and restoring him to the family. The older brother is resentful of his younger brother’s welcome and refuses to join the family celebration.
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a five-part series by Msgr. Jim Costigan on The Pillars of Parish Stewardship.
In the fourth installment in my series on The Pillars of Parish Stewardship — the 2004 document published by the stewardship office of the Diocese of Wichita — we take an in-depth look at the third pillar: prayer.
Along with the Four Pillars of Stewardship, we also make constant reference to the three Ts of stewardship, recognizing that to truly live as a stewardship people we must give God the first fruits of our Time, our Talent, and our Treasure. It is easy for us to see the concrete reality of the latter two. To give God our Talents, we must first recognize with what talents He has blessed us, and then use those talents for His greater glory. On the same token, our money is something concrete, and when we recognize it as a gift from God, we are to give a certain amount back to Him. For many of us, it is easy to understand what it means to give God our talent and our treasure. But what does it mean to give God a portion of our time? This idea is much harder to grasp, and, yet, giving to God the first fruits of our time is just as important as the other two. In fact, if we understand and implement it properly, our stewardship of time will serve as the very foundation from which our stewardship of talent and stewardship of treasure bear fruit.
Sept. 5, 2010 — Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
The reading from Wisdom 9 points out, “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” By our own mental processes, we have no way to figure out how God is working in human affairs to accomplish his purposes. As he spoke through the prophet Isaiah (55:8), “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”
God, however, has come to our help through the wisdom the Holy Spirit gives. “Who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high?” Knowing God, we can be sure his thoughts, his ways, are good and intended for our blessing.
Editor’s note: Msgr. Thomas McGread is a renowned stewardship pioneer who built St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita, Kansas, into one of the most vibrant parishes in the country by teaching parishioners how to use their personal gifts. Msgr. McGread, now the Director Emeritus of Stewardship for the Diocese of Wichita, was influential in drafting the U.S. Bishop’s pastoral letter: Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.
The latest post by Msgr. McGread was originally written by Chuck Swindoll, a protestant pastor and author.
During a recent visit I made to a parish (name and city are withheld), I had a good laugh after I pulled into the parking lot.
As I came to the beginning of the walkway that led to the parish campus — the church included — there were the typical parking spaces reserved for handicap parking on one side of the entrance. On the other side were seven parking spaces all “reserved” for staff members. And to ensure there would be no confusion on anyone’s part, there were six-foot tall metal poles cemented into the asphalt with large signs on each space that read, RESERVED STAFF PARKING.
The experience of learning is a human activity that is a lifelong process. Whether we realize it or even acknowledge it, our opportunities to learn about life, acquire new knowledge or strengthen our faith are always right before us. While the potential to learn is constant, our “classrooms” keep changing. Where we experience “learning” is anyone’s guess, and happens everywhere in the world around us. Most of the time, it is pretty close to home. Places of learning are all around us. To learn special skills and gain specific understanding about what is relevant and helpful to our lives and those we serve is something that happens all the time.
So… what would a “school of discipleship” look like? The answer should be obvious. It looks like the parish you and I attend, and the one to which we belong. Our parish church functions as a place of learning as well as a place of worship. It is the place where you and I learn about being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is a place where we encounter others who are disciples ministering to others. It is a place where we practice discipleship in our own unique way using the gifts God has given us. It is a place where we practice the stewardship way of life.
There is one theme running through the readings today, that of humility.
Humility has been defined as seeing yourself as God sees you. It is knowing who you really are. Humility is accepting the fact that you are not God, that you have faults and failings. But at the same time you are like God — you have been made in His image.
Humility is knowing your place. We see this in Luke 14, when Jesus tells us not to exalt ourselves by sitting at the head of the table. “For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
August 22, 2010 — Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
You’ve had the experience, haven’t you, of coming into a room full of strangers, all of whom seem to already know each other? Most people feel dismay as they look around, trying to figure out where they should go and what they should do. What a wonderful feeling it is when someone comes over, speaks to you and welcomes you, and then leads you over to meet other people.
It’s something like that experience for all the peoples of the world in the Kingdom of God, according to the Scripture readings for today. Even though God gave his revelation to his chosen people, the Jews, the message was not for them alone.
About a year ago, I was asked to lead a stewardship retreat at a parish in the Orlando, Fla., area. After arriving at the Orlando airport, I went to the rental car counter and got in line to get my car for the weekend. The agent quickly got me through the process of finding the reservation, initialing, agreeing, and signing where necessary.
When all was completed, she asked me, “Do you have any questions?”
I said to her, “Yes, I do. What is the meaning of life?”
She looked at me in a bit of a funny way and answered, “When you wake up in the morning, realize that each day is a blessing.”
Lord, You alone are the source of every good gift,
of the vast array of our universe,
and the mystery of each human life.
We praise You and we thank You
for Your great power and your tender, faithful LOVE.
Everything we are and everything we have is Your gift,
and after having created us,
You have given us into the keeping of Your Son,
Fill our minds with His truth
And our hearts with His love,
that in His Spirit
we may be bonded together into a community
of faithful, caring people.
In the Name and Spirit of Jesus,
we commit ourselves to be good stewards
of the gifts entrusted to us,
to share our time, our talent
and our material gifts as an outward sign
of the Treasure we hold in Jesus.
Aug. 15, 2010 – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Blessed Virgin Mary, our bishops tell us, is not only the model Christian disciple but also the model Christian steward. As we celebrate her Assumption – which prefigures our own reception into heaven at the general resurrection on the Last Day – let us consider how she models the Christian life for us.
As Jesus was preaching one day, we read in Luke 11, a woman in the crowd, impressed by his powerful words, exclaimed, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” Of course, she was right – any woman who was the mother of the Son of God would be privileged indeed!
God created everything, that which is visible and invisible. Our Catholic Faith places an emphasis not only on the invisible realities of spirituality, but also on the visible and tangible realities of spirituality. For example, the sacraments of the Church are very “materialistic” in the positive sense. We use water, oil, bread, wine, incense, music, art, fabric, flowers, gold, brass, marble, wood and everything else to show forth the invisible, to make God more tangible and real, especially God’s action in the world through Jesus Christ.
Some Christians, such as the Puritans, were very leery of the Catholic Church’s emphasis on elaborate liturgies, fine churches, vestments, and all the other accoutrements we use in our liturgies. They wanted a simple, stark and sterile spirituality. In a sense, they were opposed to the body and the material, seeing it as evil or imperfect, while the invisible realities of faith were to be savored as good and holy.
Once again Jesus shocked his hearers, and he continues to shock us today: “Sell your belongings and give alms.” That sounds reckless and goes against all we have heard about financial planning.
But then Jesus goes on to talk about real wealth, “Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.” An inexhaustible treasure, safe where no one can steal it from us! And because it’s in heaven, we don’t have to worry about leaving it to someone who might spend it foolishly (Ecclesiastes 2:21) or worry that God will prevent us from keeping it all for ourselves (Luke 12:16-21).