So every Saturday and Sunday – right after
an incredible homily is given,
the creed is recited,
and the prayers of the faithful are said:
up come the ushers and the baskets come around – more than once, sometimes, on any given Sunday. . .
And when the basket comes to us, we have a free choice: we can choose to give something: a little or a lot —- or we can simply pass the basket on to the next person in the pew. . .
If we choose to give — why do we make that choice??
The simple and practical answer to that question is – the parish, the household of God, has needs and expenses just like your household. . .
The parish has a light bill, and a water bill. We have employees to pay and benefits to give. We have roofs that leak, and air conditioners that break, a mortgage on a house, and grass to mow in the summer and snow to shovel in the winter. And the needs of the household of God go on. . .
But today, I want to give you a more deep and profound reason to give. And if you can wrap your mind – and most especially your heart –around this deep and profound reason to give – it will transform your life.
And so here it is:
We give NOT because there are needs — we give because we have a need to give. . . Let me repeat that: we give NOT because there are needs – but because we have a need to give.
We have that need to give because God has first given to us — -everything we have. And out of gratitude, we have the need to give something back to God.
We have a need to give because God has first given to us — name one thing you have that hasn’t been given to you by God —
Well Father, I worked hard in order to buy my house. . . What did God have to do with that???
Yes you did work hard, and probably scrimped and saved — but who gave you the talents and skills that you used to get your job, that earned you the money, that you used to buy your house?
Father, I worked hard in our relationship and that’s what got my husband to propose to me and marry me. . . what did God have to do with that?
Who created you, and who created him, so that you were able to meet each other, fall in love, and get married – so that you can spend all the days of your life together?
Name one thing you have that hasn’t been given to you by God?
Well Father, I got a pretty good haul of candy on Halloween that was given to me by other people – it wasn’t God who went to the candy store. . .
Who gave those people the talent to have jobs in order to buy that candy – and then gave them the spirit of generosity not to keep that candy all to themselves but to share it with those who came knocking on their doors dressed up as spooks, and goblins — and Patrick Mahomes?
Name one thing you have that hasn’t been given to you by God. . .
So every Saturday and Sunday – the basket comes around and we make a free choice – we can give – a little or a lot – not because there are needs – but because we have the need to give –
because God has generously, abundantly, and indiscriminately showered down his blessings upon us like the dewfall.
The other choice we can make –is simply to pass the basket on to the next person – hopefully ONLY because we have given out of our need to give — ON LINE! Which by the way, is a great way to consistently give!
But hopefully we don’t pass the basket on because we don’t realize how blessed we are.
But Father, there are things going on in the Church that I don’t like or approve of – why should I give to the church? A simple response to that could be —-that we don’t stop giving to Jesus – because of Judas!
There has always been, and dare I say – always will be – -things that go on in the Church that we don’t like or approve of —- and that’s because the Church is not made up of angels – but of humans – and humans make mistakes, and humans — sin…
We don’t stop giving to Jesus – because of Judas.
S0 Jesus — sat down opposite the temple treasury and observed how a poor widow came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. . .
No one forced her to do it.
No one told her how big the bills to be paid at the Temple were.
No one even told her — her contribution would be tax deductible!
And she did not withhold her contribution because there were some corrupt scribes and Pharisees who liked going around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. >>
Jesus goes so far as to call them – hypocrites in other parts of the Gospel. . .
No, this poor widow gave – because she had a need to give. And she gave not out of her abundance – but out of her scarcity – because she trusted that the God who had been so good to her in the past — would continue to be good to her in the days to come.
She gave – and we need to give – not just because there are needs – but because we have a need to give.
My sisters and brothers – if we can wrap our heads – and most especially our hearts – around this gospel teaching – then our lives will be totally transformed.
Because once we realize how blessed we are – our hearts are changed —- and once our hearts are changed — and we’re not just going through the motions —-
then our hands will easily let go — instead of grabbing and grasping and taking —- all they can get.
So this is somewhat of a typical morning in my house. . .
The alarm goes off: do I get up or hit the snooze for a few more minutes of sleep?
Do I pray: “Thank you, God, for another day” or “oh my God, it’s another day?”
Do I make the bed – or leave it be?
Do I feed the cat 1st, or get something to drink?
If Coffee: then macadamia nut, vanilla crème, or peppermint bark?
If tea: then mint medley, lemon ginger, or peach?
Do I eat cold cereal: then rice crispees, golden grahams, or honey bunches of oats?
Or oatmeal: then maple and brown sugar or raisin, date, and walnut?
Do I walk outside or use the treadmill?
Do I shower then shave or shave then shower?
And then what should I wear today – and all the decisions that go with that.
Do I pray by the book or pray by the AP?
In the bedroom or in the living room?
With the cat on my lap or off my lap?
AND FINALLY? Do I have everything I need for the day before I leave?
So even before I leave the house – and certainly before you leave yours – a good 20-25 choices or more have been made. . . It reminds me of the old joke – yes, Fr. Healy thinks there should always be a joke: a man prays to God: thank you Lord, for I’m having a pretty good day. Everything seems to be going well. I haven’t lost my temper or gotten mad. So please be with me – for I’m going to get out of bed now!!
All of these choices, all of these conscious and unconscious decisions about the trivial and the important – -will continue throughout the day – perhaps at even a faster pace than before we leave the house.
And all of them pale in comparison to the overall decision that should guide our lives as a Christian every time we do step out the door: Are we going to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength – or are we just going to stick our toe in the water instead of diving in – do and say enough to make ourselves feel good – rather than trying our best to honor God but what we say and do??
And are we going to love our neighbor as ourselves: or choose instead to be selfish, rude, and obnoxious to those around us??
These are definitely choices we make (for as Deacon Jim reminded us last) for we do have free will . . . So what’s our choice going to be??
Are we going to hear the words of Jesus – and nobody says they are easy ones to hear – they are challenging as all get-out – are we going to hear Jesus’ and walk away – as the rich young man did several weeks ago —– or are we going to be like Bartimaeus – knowing that we need help with being the people God calls us to be – and cry out: Son of David, have pity on us???
Yes, coming to Mass recharges our batteries – gives us the strength, the courage, and grace we need to be faithful to our calling.
And if we really take what happens here to heart: and not just go through the motions — if we truly believe that God loves us,
and everything we have is a gift from God — then life takes on a whole new meaning: and so every time we do walk out the door, everyone should know we are the presence of Christ to them—by the way we talk, the way we act, the values we hold and live by, the use of our talents, how we spend our time, and spend our money — all indicators of the joy we have in our hearts because we have been touched by the Amazing Grace of God. People will know we are disciples of Jesus Christ – for we have been transformed by the incredible good news of the Gospel.
As Moses told his people – so I tell my people, my parishioners, the souls I am entrusted to care for: “Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.”
Several Sundays ago – I talked about how we all have fears – and my fears are not going to be your fears. Two things most all people fear – is dying, and public speaking. . .
Another one of those common fears that people have is the fear of losing something or someone – and/ or the fear of being lost.
Children fear when they can’t see their parents – and parents hold on tight to little hands lest they lose their child in a crowd.
We check and double check to make sure we know where the house keys or the car keys are.
Don’t lose that credit card – or you will be in big trouble. . .
Use the GPS so you don’t get lost – or if you are like me – you don’t use the GPS until you get lost!
How significant, I think, that we describe the death of a family member or close friend or loved one as “losing” them. “Sorry for your loss” we will say to a mourner . . .
Oh the ever present absence—
the hole in one’s heart and life once filled by the one we loved –
the sound of the voice remembered, but heard no longer –
the quirks and habits that were so much a part of everyday life – now gone.
There is so much that IS lost when someone we love – dies. . .
On All Souls Day, which began in the 6th century as a way of honoring the deceased – comfort, compassion and hope are poured into the empty places of our hearts — through the words of Scripture:
“The souls of the just are in the hand of God.”
“Grace and mercy are with God’s holy ones, and God’s care is with his elect.”
“I fear no evil for God is at my side.”
“Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
And most especially: “And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what God the Father gave me, but that Christ should raise it on the last day.”
In the Lord, nothing is lost, and no one is lost. The precious gift of faith, the fruit of Jesus’ death and resurrection – assures us that in Christ —
All that is good, precious, treasured and loved – remains – for all eternity. Even for those whose ending left behind “unfinished business”, our faith knows the love of God which strengthens and purifies the good and burnishes away all that gets in the way of perfect love and communion with God.
We pray that this communion with God, and our communion with one another – may be abundant — and that through the gift of faith and in the sacramental life of the Church – we may be consoled and comforted and strengthened – until we all meet in Christ, and are with our loved ones again.
If you are in Coffee and Theology on Sunday morning – then you know all about the encyclical (which just means it is a long letter) that Pope Francis wrote in March of this year called: Gaudete et Exsultate: Rejoice and Be Glad described as a “Call to Holiness” in today’s world.
Pope Francis says, as did the Second Vatican Council in its document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, ( The Light of the Nations) – that all of us are called to holiness – all of us are called to be saints! Pope Francis says that Jesus wants us to be saints, to be holy and blameless before him in love – and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence.
On this feast of All Saints, when we celebrate the men and women who have gone before us for the last 2,000 years who are now counted among the saints of heaven (which as of October 14 now includes Pope Paul VI, Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and 4 others) – I want to read to you a few paragraphs of the Pope’s message to give us all something to strive for on our road to holiness – on our journey toward sainthood.
Pope Francis writes (Paragraph 14-18):
To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest, or a religious. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case.
We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness to the Gospel in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.
Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy.
Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church.
Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters.
Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus.
Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.
Let the grace of your Baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to God in every situation. Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life.
This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbor, and they begin to speak – and the gossip starts.
But she says in her heart: “No, I will not speak badly of anyone.” This is a step forward in holiness.
Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. Yet another sacrifice that brings holiness.
Later, she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness.
Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step in holiness.
In this way, led by God’s grace, we shape by many small gestures the holiness God has willed for us, not as men and women sufficient unto ourselves but rather as “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Our lives can demonstrate God’s power at work in us –even in the midst of human weakness.
SO: Gaudte et Exsultate: Rejoice and be glad – for as Pope Francis said many years ago: “You have never heard of a sad or gloomy faced saint. That would be a contradiction.” (Dec. 14, 2014)
Rejoice and be glad. Become holy. Become a saint. So all of us, together, can be a great cloud of witnesses – and be Lumen Gentium: a light to the nations. . .