Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: March 22, 2015

March 22, 2015 – Fifth Sunday of Lent
Jer 31: 31-34; Ps 51: 3-4, 12-15; Heb 5: 7-9; Jn 12: 20-33

Unless grain of wheat 01“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies it produces much fruit.” (Jn 12:24-25) We understand the meaning of this statement in that the grain of wheat must be buried and in a sense die if it is to be reborn and to grow and produce wheat.

That is similar to what we should have been trying to accomplish during this holy Lenten season. The term “born again” is a popular phrase in many churches, but this rebirth is also what we strive for in our Catholic Church. We are reborn in multiple ways — through Baptism, through our ongoing conversion, and through our daily efforts to be good stewards.

Lent is, of course, the ideal time for us to seek this rebirth. Our efforts through the past several weeks should have been to bury our old self and to be reborn with a deeper sense of faith and trust in God. Easter is but two weeks away and Lent officially ends on Holy Thursday. However, it is not too late to rededicate ourselves to God-centered lives. St. John Eudes put it this way, “Let us therefore give ourselves to God with great desire to begin to live thus, and beg Him to destroy in us the life of the world of sin, and to establish His life within us.”

Eric McArdle: Spreading the Stewardship Message in Hawaii

eric_colorIn early February, Catholic Stewardship Consultants teamed up with the Diocese of Honolulu to host a two-day conference on successful parish stewardship development. Hundreds of priests, deacons, and parish leaders attended, and the conference was heralded as a rousing success.

The main presenters included Deacon Don McArdle, the CEO of our organization; Msgr. Daniel Mueggenborg from the Diocese of Tulsa; Fr. Michael Troha from the Diocese of Cleveland, and Bishop Larry Silva from the Diocese of Honolulu. Msgr. John Mbinda, the pastor of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist in Mililani, Hawaii, also gave a presentation on his parish’s extremely successful stewardship efforts in the short time that we at Catholic Stewardship Consultants have been working with them to develop stewardship during the past year.

The presentations were focused on stewardship formation, and also offered direction and practical advice on how to implement stewardship at parishes around the diocese, and we were thrilled to be able to share our message with them.

The conference was featured in a recent issue of the Hawaii Catholic Herald, the newspaper of the Diocese of Honolulu. Click here to read the article.

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: March 15, 2015

March 15, 2015 – Fourth Sunday of Lent
2 Chr 36: 14-16, 19-23; Ps 137: 1-6; Eph 2: 4-10; Jn 3: 14-21

Tissot_The_Flight_of_the_PrisonersFor some reason during Lent and our preparations for Easter the readings presented to us in Holy Scripture capture not only the essence of this holy season, but provide us with the many ways we should be using this time to appreciate and deepen our faith. In particular today’s Gospel from St. John completely captures on what we should be focusing and how we should view the impending joy of Easter.

John 3:16 is one of the most recognized, repeated, quoted, and expounded messages in our entire Christian society: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Some theologians maintain that in this one verse the entire Gospel message is compacted and stated, and other theological historians state that this is the most frequently-quoted proclamation from Scripture in the world. We could reflect entirely on that verse, but there is even more richness and more meaning to all of our readings on this Fourth Sunday of Lent.

The 1st and 2nd Books of Chronicles represent the history of human kind at that time. The first word in 1 Chronicles is “Adam” and the last words in 2 Chronicles are included in today’s first reading. The entire message from the two books of Chronicles can be summed up with the phrases “God loves us” and “God has gifted us.” This is the message on which we must base our thoughts, our prayers, and our responses to all of today’s readings. This particular reading from Chronicles speaks of the Babylonian exile, a 70-year period when many of the Israelites were transported to Babylon where they remained prisoners. When they were released from captivity, many opted to remain in Babylon. The message is that the end is also a “fresh start.” During this Lent every day is a “fresh start” for each of us. It should be our goal to make use of it, keeping in mind that we are gifted by God, and through stewardship we are called to use those gifts to thank God and benefit others.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, our second reading, Paul mentions also that God’s saving grace is a gift to us. This is a gift always available to us, but one to which we are definitely called during Lent. Reconciliation is important to our faith and vital to each of us. We need to seek reconciliation in preparation for Easter. We need to understand and appreciate that God’s forgiving grace is available to each of us, but we must seek it. The beauty, of course, is that it is ours even if we do not seek it.

As indicated in John 3:16 God loved the world — the entire world and all who occupy it. And who will receive the incredible gift of salvation? “Whoever believes in him.” Believing in Jesus is the one requirement for us to receive this incredible gift. We are not talking about just being aware of this gift, of just being aware of God’s saving grace. What is asked of us is a complete and total trust in God, the kind of trust which allows us to be good stewards, to take risks in that regard, because we know God is with us and God loves us. At this point in our Lenten journeys we need to seek total commitment to living lives of faith and stewardship.

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: March 15, 2015

March 15, 2015 – Fourth Sunday of Lent
2 Chr 36: 14-16, 19-23; Ps 137: 1-6; Eph 2: 4-10; Jn 3: 14-21

john-iconIt has been said many times over and in a variety of ways that stewardship is based upon gratitude. Gratitude for what, we might ask? For the variety of blessings each of us receives, understanding full well that each of us is gifted in different ways and perhaps even in different measures. However, there is one gift in which we all share equally.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) It is difficult for us to even conceive of the magnitude of that multifaceted gift, from God’s unconditional love for us to the extraordinary gift of his son Jesus to the fabulous gift of everlasting life.

Stewardship calls us to appreciate all of God’s gifts, but if we only focus on the gifts listed above, our gratitude should know no bounds. Pope Francis has said, “God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. We all have the ability to understand and receive God’s gifts.” We need to recognize God’s gifts and especially during our preparations for Easter, find ways to show and live out our gratitude.

Questions and Answers — Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference

McGread-Conference-April-2015There is still time to register for the next Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference, which will be held April 22-23 at the Diocese of Wichita’s Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kansas.

For more than 10 years, the McGread Conference has inspired and educated thousands of priests, religious, and lay Catholics looking to transform their parishes through stewardship.

The conference is named for the late Msgr. Thomas McGread, who passed away in April 2013. Msgr. McGread has been called the “Father of Stewardship,” and he was instrumental in the drafting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response. Conference attendees will hear the incredible story of how Msgr. McGread’s stewardship vision transformed his parish — St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita — and how his stewardship model has impacted other parishes across the country. The conference is scheduled during the middle of the week so that all participants can arrive Tuesday evening and depart Thursday afternoon.

Curious if the Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference is for you or your parish? Here are a few Frequently Asked Questions (and answers) to give you a better idea of what to expect.

What topics will the speakers cover in their presentations? 
Each of the pastors and lay leaders invited to speak at this conference will share his or her parish’s stewardship story. Learn about the joys and challenges of implementing stewardship into a parish setting. Additionally, a CSC representative will speak about practical steps for developing stewardship in your parish.

My parish is already a “stewardship parish.” Will I learn anything new at the conference? 
Definitely! In addition to the insights and best practices mentioned during each of our presentations, the conference offers attendees the opportunity to network and learn from clergy and laity at other parishes, who may be in different stages along the stewardship journey.

Can I buy merchandise, or take home “freebies” at this conference? 
While we do not sell merchandise at our Msgr. McGread Conferences, there will be several free items that each attendee can take home. Those items include the book Grateful and Giving by Dcn. Don McArdle, which explores the beginnings of stewardship at St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita, a DVD presentation of Msgr. McGread speaking about stewardship, and more!

I don’t think “stewardship” will work at my parish. Should I still attend the conference anyway? 
First of all, stewardship can work at every parish and in every person’s life! The USCCB, in its pastoral letter Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, states that stewardship and discipleship go hand-in-hand. We are all called to be disciples and, therefore, we are all called to stewardship. Attending the Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference will offer additional insights on how stewardship can transform your parish community. Additionally, representatives from CSC will be on-hand at the conference to offer further guidance and tips to consider when implementing stewardship at the parish level.

Click here to view the McGread Conference brochure, which includes key details about the event, the lineup of presentations and more. You can also complete your secure online registration at this link. For more information, contact Shari Navarre at 888-822-1847, ext. 3702, or by e-mail at shari@catholicsteward.com.

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: March 8, 2015

March 8, 2015 – Third Sunday of Lent
Ex 20: 1-17; Ps 19: 8-11; 1 Cor 1: 22-25; Jn 2: 13-25

JesusandtheMoneyChangersThe Ten Commandments, as presented to us in the first reading from Exodus, represent God’s direct teaching to us as to how we need to live and structure our lives. That is essentially what Lent is all about — a time for us to review those teachings and that structure, and how we are doing living it out.

Traditionally, the Ten Commandments can be divided into two groups — the first four address our relationship to God, and the final six speak to our relationships with one another. God makes it quite clear to us that He does not just wish to be part of our lives; he wishes to be at the foundation of our lives, the absolute focal point around which we do everything. Leading a God-centered life is at the core of a life of stewardship. Our bond and liaison with the Lord should be central to our entire lives; it is this correlation with God which should be the driving force in our Lenten efforts.

In his letter to the Corinthians St. Paul preaches, “We proclaim Christ crucified.” This statement is necessary for us to truly understand our faith and our connection to Christ. A legend is told of a church that placed this statement on an arch leading into the church. However, over time, weeds began to grow over the arch so that the saying could only be seen as “We proclaim Christ.” Without the crucifixion of Christ and the salvation it brought to us, it is never enough just to be loyal to Christ. More time passed and the only thing that could be seen was “We proclaim.” Clearly without Christ and the Cross, simply “proclaiming” is not adequate. It becomes empty words. Finally, all was blotted out by the weeds except for “We.” Is that where we are? Is that where our church is? We must be more than a social gathering place. Lent is not about us; it is about Christ crucified.

Our Gospel from John relates Jesus driving the money changers and others from the Temple. This was not a sudden fit of anger on the Lord’s part. Note how He made a whip of cords, something which required time. He had carefully thought out what He was going to do. In John’s Gospel, St. John first speaks of Jesus’ conversion of water to wine. This is an important, although subtle, beginning. Jesus first converts, then He cleanses. This is the same process through which each of us must go; first we must seek conversion, then we seek cleansing. That, too, is perhaps the secret to our Lenten journeys.

John goes on to say that “Jesus would not trust himself to them (the admiring crowds) because he knew them all.” The Lord knows each of us; He understands each of us. Yet He loves us unconditionally. Jesus wants more than our admiration. Our goal during this Lent should be to acknowledge His love; accept His trust; but make an effort within ourselves to earn and deserve that trust. It is ours either way. That is the joy of God’s love; we receive it whether we deserve it or not.

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: March 8, 2015

March 8, 2015 – Third Sunday of Lent
Ex 20: 1-17; Ps 19: 8-11; 1 Cor 1: 22-25; Jn 2: 13-25

Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_079The Ten Commandments are our moral code given directly to us from God. Our Catholic beliefs, morals, and practices often come under attack from the secular society, but these clearly written morals are the anchor on which much of our behavior should be based.

In fact, according to the noted author and philosopher C. S. Lewis, “There is a universal morality among all humankind. These principles represented in the Ten Commandments are implanted in the hearts and minds of all women and men.” That would seem to make it simple, but as we all know, nothing is ever simple.

Nevertheless, during our Lenten preparations for Easter it is an excellent time for us to evaluate how we are doing in relation to these basic Commandments from God. Our sense of stewardship tells us that we are in need of God’s guidance and instructions. Too often in our society we seem to rely upon what our “personal” feelings may be in relation to morals and how we live them out. When questioned about the Commandments, Jesus responded that the two most important were to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” as well as “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Our problem may be that we do not even fulfill those two Commandments, let alone the Ten Commandments. That should be our goal always, not just during Lent.

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: March 1, 2015

March 1, 2015 – Second Sunday of Lent
Gn 22: 1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18; Ps 116: 10, 15-19; Rom 8: 31B-34; Mk 9: 2-10

transfiguration“Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them.” The Transfiguration of Christ, as related in this week’s Gospel from Mark, is according to many theologians and scholars, the “high point” of His public life. His Baptism marked the beginning of His public ministry, and His Ascension marked the end. It is impossible to minimize the significance of the Transfiguration.

It is reported in detail in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and Peter and John, two of those who witnessed it, both make reference to it. Peter says “We were eye witnesses of His majesty,” and John wrote “We have seen His glory.” Jesus literally glowed with divinity, His inner divine nature shining forth with dazzling brightness. It was a glimpse of the glory of heaven for those who saw it. Peter did not want to leave from that holy mountain top (“Let us make three tents.”).

It was the Transfiguration that strengthened the Apostles through the trials and ordeals to come.

The readings on this Second Sunday of Lent are intended to strengthen and confirm our own faith in the midst of our Lenten treks. The faith of Abraham and Isaac are presented in the first reading from Genesis. Clearly both Abraham and his son Isaac have total faith in God, the kind of faith we are called to pursue and to demonstrate through lives of stewardship. When God says to Abraham, “Take your son…whom you love” it is the first time the word “love” appears in the Bible. It is the love between a parent and a child; it parallels the love God feels for His Son (“This is my beloved son; listen to him.”); it is the love to which we are called, understanding that God loves us, and we are to love God. Knowing that love allows us to what we must and should do.

In his letter to the Romans, our second reading, St. Paul builds on the love demonstrated in the first reading when he tells us “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul points to the gift of Jesus Christ as substantiation enough that “God is for us.” As we continue through Lent and through life, we must never lose sight of that redeeming fact. Abraham trusted in God; St. Paul trusts implicitly in God, and we, too, need to feel that trust and security. As implied in the first reading we need to be filled with the love of God.

We have previously noted that the Gospel of Mark is believed to be what Peter told Mark firsthand of his life with and experiences with Jesus. Thus, the description Mark recounts of the appearance of Jesus at His Transfiguration may well be Peter’s words: “His clothes became dazzling white.” The light that shone forth from the Lord came from the inside, not the outside. The word “transfigure” implies a total change, not a superficial one. In a sense we are called to seek a type of transfiguration in our own lives during Lent. It is this conversion of heart that leads us to stewardship. However, it is something we must strive for and work at; it is not easy, but the rewards are beyond our imagination and our ability to comprehend them. Peter, James, and John knew. We, too, know.

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: March 1, 2015

March 1, 2015 – Second Sunday of Lent
Gn 22: 1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18; Ps 116: 10, 15-19; Rom 8: 31B-34; Mk 9: 2-10

abraham-and-isaacMost of us have heard many times the story of how God tested Abraham, as reported in our first reading from Genesis. Often there may be various emotional reactions to the situation as it unfolds. However, there are two important aspects of the narrative that we sometimes miss.

Yes, Abraham was tested, but so was his son Isaac. It would seem that Isaac was a willing participant in the ordeal. Isaac clearly did not protest nor resist lying on the altar in preparation for what would occur. Isaac offers an example of one of the basic tenets of stewardship: he trusted completely in God (and in his father, as well). That kind of total trust is difficult, but if we do not trust in the Lord, it is hard for us to make the kind of commitment to stewardship and discipleship the Lord wants from us.

The other feature of this story we sometimes miss is the parallel between Abraham and his son, and what would occur between God and His only son, Jesus Christ. Everything from the mountain to hauling the wood up the mountain to the father sacrificing his son to deliverance from death is reminiscent of Christ’s sacrifice for us, and God’s willingness to offer “His only begotten Son, that those who believe in him may not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: February 22, 2015

February 22, 2015 – First Sunday of Lent
Gn 9: 8-15; Ps 25: 4-9; 1 PTt3: 18-22; Mk 1: 12-15

baptism of_the_lord_insideBaptism is at the heart of our readings on this First Sunday of Lent. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it quite clear that Baptism is perhaps the major factor in our Catholic lives. #213 of the Catechism states: Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn.” Our Lenten journeys need to reflect our response to our Baptismal call and to help us delineate how we are going to live that call out in our daily lives.

The first reading from Genesis opens with God making a covenant with His people. The Lord says, “I am now establishing my covenant with you, and with your descendants after you.” No matter how we define how we are descended from Noah and the handful of people on the Ark, God’s covenant includes us. Then God made a sign of His covenant with a rainbow: “I set my bow in the clouds as a sign of my covenant between me and the earth.” If rainbows have always seemed special to you, they should. Every time we see a rainbow we should be reminded of God’s love for us and His promise of salvation to us.

The other key ingredient to this first reading has to do with Baptism. As we will see in the second reading from 1 Peter, the flood is compared to the waters of Baptism. Noah is baptized in a spiritual sense. We must see that Baptism has to do with the spirit. It may be called “cleansing” but it is a cleansing of the soul, not of the body. We have been cleansed and our Lenten voyage, like that of the Ark, is to seek and renew that spiritual cleansing.

As indicated St. Peter makes a comparison between Baptism and the flood experienced by Noah and his family: “This prefigured Baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” We are saved, just as Noah and his family were, by the waters of Baptism. You may have heard the phrase the “waters of life.” Those waters we receive when baptized cleanse the very essence of our beings. We receive new life, but it is not life in the meaning we understand it on this earth. It is eternal life. To achieve that, however, requires us to strive for good and righteousness. Right now during Lent we have the opportunity to take steps toward that life of righteousness to which we are called.

The Gospel from Mark reports the beginning of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. Of course these 40 days parallel the 40 days of Lent which we began just a few days ago. Just three years ago on Ash Wednesday Pope Benedict XVI pointed out that like the Lord, we find ourselves in the desert quite often because of “secularism and the culture of materialism.” Stewardship is a life style which helps us combat these challenges. It is also worth mentioning that according to the Gospel “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert.” The Greek word which is translated as “drove” might also be translated as “led.” To be sure this is a time when we need to be led by the Holy Spirit, a time when like Jesus Himself, we need to turn to the Spirit and the Angels for help and support. Lent is an opportunity, and we need to seize it.

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: February 22, 2015

February 22, 2015 – First Sunday of Lent
Gn 9: 8-15; Ps 25: 4-9; 1 PTt3: 18-22; Mk 1: 12-15

washing_feet_01It is no surprise that water literally runs through all the readings on this First Sunday of Lent — from the flood waters experienced by Noah in Genesis, to St. Peter comparing Baptism to this flood, to Jesus venturing into the desert for 40 days immediately after His Baptism, as reported by St. Mark.

There are more than 700 references to water in Holy Scripture, but as we begin our Lenten journeys, our concentration needs to be on our own Baptism and our personal Baptismal call. Stewardship has been defined as our response to that Baptismal call through discipleship and service. Just as Jesus entered the desert for 40 days, we are doing the same during Lent.

Defining our Baptismal call is part of what we should be striving to do at this time. Baptism calls us to a sense of mission. Another key word in today’s scripture is “covenant.” The reading from Genesis speaks to God’s covenant with us, His people. A covenant, nevertheless, is a two-way street. God has blessed us with the Holy Spirit and the Lord has promised us everlasting life if we fulfill His desires. It is time for us to discover how we are going to live out our covenant with God.

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: February 15, 2015

February 15, 2015 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lv 13: 1-2, 44-46; Ps 32: 1-2, 5, 11; 1 Cor 10:31–11:1; Mk 1: 40-45

healing-jesus-235There is no question that Jesus understood healing. It was something He did on a regular basis, but the Lord also recognized the need of people to be healed. Today’s readings may speak to healing of disease, but the idea of healing is something that each of us needs as well.

The term “leprosy” appears 68 times in the Bible (55 times in the Old Testament and 13 times in the New Testament). Jesus defied the notion that lepers were to be avoided and never touched. Not only did the Lord touch and heal lepers, He treated them with love and compassion and respect. Jesus knew that just as leprosy is contagious and spreads, so does sin. Leprosy may begin in a minor way, but it can increase in intensity and spread quickly. Sin is very much the same. As we approach Lent and Easter, we need to deal with, acknowledge, and address our sins.

This is a time when we must make a concerted effort to focus on and develop our relationship with God. In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, Paul advises us to do “everything for the glory of God.” He immediately follows that counsel by saying “Avoid giving offense.” This may seem like a mere warning to take care how we treat others, but it means more than that. In this case St. Paul may see an “offense” as a way we may lead others to sin. This concentration on sin is what connects all of the readings today.

Finally Paul directs us to imitate him as he imitates Christ. In his letter to Timothy St. Paul offers the same advice in more depth: “…be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Jesus reminded us often, and this is also true to those who practice stewardship as a way of life that what we do is more important than what we say. Our lives are a testament to our faith and discipleship. When Paul tells us to “imitate” him, he knows full well the commitment and sacrifice required to be a good Christian, a good follower of Christ.

Again this is important for us to remember as we begin our Lenten journeys. We need to focus on God and our relationship with God; we need to attend to our sins; and like Paul we need to offer good examples of stewardship and the Christian life to others.

The Gospel from Mark relates the healing of a leper by Jesus. This is the first instance of Jesus dealing with a leper, and it occurs at the beginning of His public ministry. Note that the leper does not appeal to the Lord to “heal” him, he asks Jesus to “make me clean.” Healing is one thing; making one “clean” is another. We all desire and need cleansing from sin and the many things that go with it. Jesus responds to the leper, upon touching him, saying “You are clean.” When we seek reconciliation with God through confession, we are following the same formula as laid out in this Gospel. The priest may say various words upon completion of our confession, but a common phrase is “I absolve you…” When the priest says that, it is the same as hearing the words: “Be made clean.”

Leprosy was considered incurable, but it was not incurable for Jesus. Our sins, as challenging as they may seem to us, are also curable with the Lord’s help. Now is the time to seek it.

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: February 15, 2015

February 15, 2015 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lv 13: 1-2, 44-46; Ps 32: 1-2, 5, 11; 1 Cor 10:31–11:1; Mk 1: 40-45

Ist mark iconn the last verse from today’s Gospel from Mark, this simple statement is made: “…people kept coming to him from everywhere.” Of course, Mark is speaking about Jesus, and the Gospel writer is making reference to the desire of people to be healed. Today’s readings deal in large part with leprosy and lepers. There is a deeper meaning, as is often the case, in these references.

Leprosy is not something we know much about because we do not experience the disease the same way people did in Jesus’ time. The latent point of the Gospel is that we are all in need of healing. We are aware that we are sinners, and the Church takes great care to let us know that penance and healing are a part of our faith.

Lent begins this week, and we need to avail ourselves of the opportunity for reconciliation. This is something we should do regularly, but certainly during the holy time preparing for Easter. Confession is a way we can return to God, and it is key that we acknowledge our sins with true sorrow before a priest. Pope Francis has said, “I cannot be baptized multiple times, but I can go to confession, and when I go to confession, I renew that grace of baptism.”

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: February 8, 2015

February 8, 2015 — Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jb 7: 1-4, 6-7; Ps 147: 1-6; 1 Cor 9: 16-19, 22-23; Mk 1: 29-39

Bloch_Carl_Christ_Consolator-webThis week’s readings extend from Job, a man who needed to be healed, to Jesus healing many in Galilee. Healing is something of which we all are in need, whether it is physical or psychological or spiritual. As much as we may try to avoid it, our lives are filled with pain and suffering of one type or another. Jesus understood that and speaks to it extensively in His teachings.

Most of us are familiar with Job, a man who might seem to have been dealing with more than he could handle. Job is the ultimate pessimist. He bemoans his state in life, and in truth he was faced with many challenges. It was as if he wanted to die because he felt that only in death would he find relief from his pain and suffering. As we learn, however, God has other plans for Job; God will offer him both relief and joy in eternity. At times we, too, might focus so much on our own difficulties that we fail to see positives. The greatest positive is that the Lord is with us, both to share and relieve our suffering. Jesus is our hope, and that is where our focus should be.

The struggles of Job in many ways parallel our own. Job suffers and he questions how God can let that happen. In spite of his doubts Job comes across as a holy man. As difficult as that may be for each of us, that should in fact be our goal. In spite of all, we need to continue to strive to achieve holiness.

St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, our second reading, shows some of the same thoughts and concerns as Job. Of course, we do not view Paul as suffering in the way and to the extent of Job. However, Paul does recognize that he, as is the case with each of us, must fulfill his charge from God, and that is not always easily done. Paul the Evangelist points out that God gives him the strength to preach the Gospel in spite of the response and reaction of his listeners, and regardless whether he receives support from those to whom he is preaching. As lonely and isolated as that may seem, as stewards and disciples, we, too, must be prepared to do what is right and to live out our Christian way of life no matter the consequences.

Job and Paul make somewhat indirect references to healing, but today’s Gospel from Mark speaks directly to healing done by Jesus. He heals in privacy (Peter’s mother-in-law), and He heals publicly: “He cured many who were sick with various diseases.” And then the Lord prays. Jesus demonstrates to us that being busy is no reason not to pray; instead it is a reason to pray. Jesus always found time and made time to pray. We need to do the same. A consistent and regular prayer life is an important way we live out our stewardship of time.

The Lord prayed not because of helplessness but because of the power He gained from prayer. Lent will soon be here. If we make one change in our lives, perhaps it should be to intensify and increase our own prayer lives. Jesus knew the value of public prayer, but He also knew and experienced the joy of praying alone. “He left and went off to a deserted place where He prayed.” St. John Vianney wrote, “Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.”

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: February 8, 2015

February 8, 2015 — Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jb 7: 1-4, 6-7; Ps 147: 1-6; 1 Cor 9: 16-19, 22-23; Mk 1: 29-39

jesusteacher“Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.”

There are scores of instances in the Four Gospels which indicate Jesus praying. He often would go off alone to pray, but He also prayed with others publicly; He prayed before He made a choice, before He healed someone, and He was just as likely to pray after as well.

St. Paul exhorts us to “pray constantly, never ceasing.” Jesus perhaps more than any other fulfilled this admonition. He provides to us the perfect example of both how we should pray and in what ways. Prayer is at the foundation of our faith; it is at the core of a stewardship way of life. Developing an ongoing, consistent, and active prayer life is paramount for each of us.

Prayer not only indicates our constant awareness of God, but it enhances our lives, and is an indication of our total trust in God. Trust in God is also an important facet of stewardship. Knowing that we are in God’s hands and in His care is what strengthens us and allows us to make the commitment Jesus has asked us to make. One of Jesus’ final prayers is one which offers us the suggestion of how we need to approach life: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”