God talks a lot about money. Money is mentioned in the bible over 800 times. I suppose it’s okay to give a sermon about it every now and again. Matter of fact, we see money in our first reading. The alien, the orphan, the widow—who will take care of them? The questions arise. Are we pay interest on the loan? We this question of money, and what are to do with it, appear all over in sacred scripture.
It is an important concern–what we do with our money. It is a very important spiritual concern. It is the same with other practical things, like time management. Show me your calendar, and I’ll show you what you care about. Similarly, show me your bank account record, I’ll point out your priorities. These are practical and almost worldly concerns, but they are also spiritual considerations.
I was thinking back to my homily last weekend, about the image of Our Lady holding Jesus. I tried to make the point that Mary held onto Jesus and let go of the rest. Some of us hold on to money. We can’t hold money in our arms and Jesus at the same time. Or in our heart. Jesus tells us today: I want your hearts! The scholars ask Jesus today: “Jesus! Which of the old laws is the most important? Pick one!” And Jesus says something brand new, something amazing: He says LOVE ME with everything, and your neighbors. All the laws and prophets depend on this. In other words, he says, if you REALLY love me and REALLY love your brothers and sisters, then all the laws will be fulfilled. It will just happen.
So we have a question from Jesus: do you REALLY love me and one another more than money? Of course, we say. But the test is: am I willing to tithe AT LEAST ten percent?? That is the Old Testament law. It was not abolished by Jesus….in fact, if anything, Jesus expanded it, increased it. He was always telling people to give everything up, sell this, sell that, leave this or that behind, give like the widow, you cannot serve God and mammon, follow me. The other day in our Gospel we heard Jesus say: “Much will be required of the one entrusted with much. Still more will be demanded from the one entrusted with more.”
Jesus wants a lot! And…we should be willing to give it to him. If we love him, if we love each other, it is easy.
I want to reflect on some people and what they’ve taught me about money and giving.
- Mom and Dad. When I was a little kid, my allowance was $2 a week. But I had to give two quarters into the church collection. Early on, Mom and Dad taught me that it is my duty to give to Jesus, to give back to his body the church. What a great lesson! We need to do better at this. I’m going to make sure all our kids have envelops for giving. Parents: you please make sure they use them! It doesn’t have to be much, but we need to instill this lesson. Parents also need to set a good example of giving.
- Haiti. When I went to Haiti, I was amazed at the poverty. These people–they have so little, not even food. But at Mass on Sunday, everyone goes up and puts a coin into the medal box. Their collection time looks like our communion line: everyone goes up and puts in a coin. One person said, “Come about Wednesday, I start thinking, where will I get the coin to give to God this week?” Wow.
- Cecilia Waldron and Frances Dunn. These two ladies gave a huge endowment to St. Charles, where I grew up. That parish has an endowment over $5 million in size. Every year, the parish receives just shy of $300,000 from that endowment. Their legacy will live on until the second coming. We need to remember the power of endowments and the importance of remembering our parish in our wills in a generous kind of way. Soon we will host a dinner where we will talk about all kinds of “last things”: wills and testaments, advance directives, funeral Masses, etc. Lots of people have lots of questions. We’ll get people here with the answers.
- Uncle Jerry. My uncle is an Episcopal priest. He taught me that everything I have is God’s. I don’t “own” a thing. It’s God’s. I should give not because “I’m supposed to” or because there’s a rule in the OT about it, but because I should want to give. It’s not that I’m obligated to support the church–which I am–but it’s that I should want to support the church! Because the work of the church….it is the work of Jesus! I should want a part in that.
- Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf. Msgr Mark was my pastor at OLG. I leanred a lot from him. He would always say, “God never asks us to do anything that he has not already done in a greater way.” AMEN. God asks us to tithe ten percent, to give that part of our income back to him. OK. Big deal: he gave us his life!! God has given so much to us. He asks us to give a little back to him. Another thing I learned from Msgr. Mark. He tithes 50% of his little priestly income. A very generous man is he. I vow to do the same. It’s just money after all. People say: that’s easy for you to say, you’re a priest! You have a free house. Yes, I am blessed. But I pay tuition for two kids to go to school. I pay my phone bill, car bill, etc. Naturally your tithe does not need to be so high, though you should be tithing at least 10% to God…at least 5% at the parish.
Point is: we can all stand to give a bit more. They say I should set an example. So here goes. I confess this. I have not tithed my goal yet since I’ve been here. So I’ve failed to live up to my goal, to do my part. I fix this today. I’m writing a check for $1000 at every Mass this weekend. I assure you, the well is not exactly deep! But it’s just money.
I give because I believe in this place, in our mission. We don’t want money so that we can pile it up. Quite the opposite. We don’t want money at all, we want to USE that money so we can BE JESUS in Shelbyville–so that we can do everything he did while he was alive on earth…feed, teach, clothe, shelter, anoint, heal, etc. Jesus is still alive, through his body the church! We make that life possible by being a part of it..with our money, our time, and our talents.
Jesus is doing amazing things through our parish. He wants to do more! Sr Joan and I are trying to start a St Vincent de Paul society. There is a lot of work to be done. And we can’t do it without help.
It’s not an appeal weekend or anything, I’m just asking us all to look back and see if we have done our at least ten percent this year. If not, let’s get going on it. It’s amazing what God can do when we are generous….with our money and our time and our talents.
One last thing. We can never out-give God. Here is a letter from one of the kids whose tuition I pay. I had written him on his birthday:
Dear Fr. Michael,
Good day. First thing foremost, I would like to thank you for your greeting on my birthday. I was so happy to receive your letter. It is a pleasure that my second father is a priest. Father, I am the youngest of three children in my family. I have one brother and one sister. Father, in your letter you say you have 800 families in your church. Is it hard to take care of them? As of me, I have plenty of friends, too. Someday, I hope to be a policeman of a solider to protect people from harm. We live in a simple life, Father. Much of my life, you have made possible. Thank you and I love you.
What’s a few thousand dollars compared to that? God is generous with us. We are so blessed. God asks us in our Gospel: will you be generous back to me?