The hope of the resurrection was what inspired the seven sons and their mother to endure the sufferings recounted in 2 Maccabees 7. That the doctrine of the resurrection is true was affirmed by Jesus in the Gospel reading from Luke 20. The truth of the resurrection means that this life does have meaning and that we are responsible for the kind of stewardship we practice with the time, talent, and treasure God entrusts to us in this life. But we don’t have to try to live as good stewards by our own efforts alone. In the reading from 2 Thessalonians, St. Paul tells us that God through his grace encourages and strengthens us.
Nov. 7, 2010 –Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
It’s jokingly said that one of the most painful motions a man can make is to reach down to pull his wallet out of his pocket. That’s especially true when he’s going to open his wallet to make a contribution. But as the reading from 2 Maccabees 7 makes clear, men are willing to suffer pain and even death for something they believe in. And what’s more worthy of our pain – either physical or emotional – than the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ carried out through his Church?
The seven brothers and their mother who died for the practice of their faith in the reading from 2 Maccabees did so because of their hope for the resurrection. Jesus in the Gospel reading from Luke 20 reaffirms that hope as one of the basic doctrines of Christianity. This life is not the end. At the end of time, our bodies will rise again and be rejoined to our souls.
It is a four-session, workbook/video study session that is solid on the spirituality of stewardship. It is perfect for continuing stewardship education for you pastoral/parish council, staff, and finance council.
The series was developed by the Diocese of Wichita and is titled The Spirituality of Stewardship DVD Formation Series and Facilitator Manual. For more information and to order it for your parish leaders, click here for info on the series at the Diocese of Wichita’s Web site. There is also a flyer on the Diocese of Wichita’s Web site with more info on the series you can view by clicking here. Finally, you may contact the Diocese of Wichita Office of Stewardship directly with questions, or to order the series, by calling 316-269-3900, or by email at powellp@catholicdioceseofwichita.
Parishes all over the country have already found this series extremely helpful. If you use it, I am confident it will help your parish’s leadership gain more knowledge on the true meaning of stewardship.
If the “leaders” in a parish aren’t formed in a solid understanding of the spirituality of stewardship, how can we expect the rest of the parish to understand its meaning?
What can a parish do to rise above the rest and give itself a better-than-average chance to more fully develop stewardship within the faith community? A fundamental step is to make a serious effort in forming key parish leaders. You may be asking, “Who are we talking about here?” First and foremost, it starts with the pastor. Just because he’s an ordained minister doesn’t mean he fully understands – or even practices – the spirituality of stewardship.
The Fall season is a time when many stewardship parishes conduct their Annual Stewardship Renewals. That is indeed the case here at my parish, Immaculate Conception in Willoughby, Ohio, as October is our Stewardship Renewal month.
We mailed out our Stewardship packets to all parishioners asking them to make their commitments of Time, Talent and Treasure. Being good Americans, we tend to look at things from a “success” perspective. So, how do we look upon our Stewardship Renewal as to whether or not it is successful?
The wealthy chief tax collector desired to see Jesus when he came to Jericho, but had to climb a tree to see over the crowd. Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house, even though tax collectors were despised for collaborating with the Romans. But as Wisdom says, God warns offenders and reminds “them of the sins they are committing,” so they may repent. Such happened to Zacchaeus when he encountered Jesus, and he responded by becoming a generous steward. We too are challenged to respond to Jesus when we meet him.
Oct. 31, 2010 –Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Conversion is more than just a dramatic emotional experience leaving behind lingering warm feelings, although that’s the concept held by many people. A conversion, rather, is a total change from one way of life to another.
Zacchaeus found out how much conversion changed his life when he encountered Jesus, as we read in Luke 19.
Zacchaeus is described by St. Luke as “a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man.” Those two characteristics were undoubtedly connected. Tax collectors, remember, were viewed as traitorous collaborators with the Roman forces occupying Palestine, men willing to fleece their fellow Jews. After all, as long as tax collectors handed over the sum the Roman government expected, they were free to pocket whatever surplus they had extracted – and there was no appeal from their demands, so most of them ended up with comfortable amounts in their coffers. And a chief tax collector like Zacchaeus did even better. Being head of all the tax collectors for the region around Jericho, he was able to claim a share of what the tax collectors below him in rank had extorted from the populace. Undoubtedly he had grown wealthy indeed. He might even have won a contest for the most hated man in town.
“Stewardship is the grateful response of a Christian disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.”
While it may be a short and simple statement, it is one of the best definitions of stewardship I have found. Communicating this with the staff, leaders, and members of your parish will help you to foster a more unified understanding of stewardship. I would even recommend sharing this definition with the parish at-large by including it across multiple parish communication platforms, including the parish Web site, newsletter, bulletin, etc. Pastors, parish staff members, and lay leaders might even consider using it as a signature tagline at the end of their emails to further spread this short, powerful message.
Does success hinge on beautiful displays at your Ministry Fair, or perfect color photos in your brochures? While these are important details, the most important elements during your Renewal are prayer and people.
As with many endeavors, prayer is essential to your Stewardship Renewal. It is, after all, a time for spiritual renewal — a time for personal growth as people make commitments to God and their parish. It is critical to pray that the Holy Spirit inspires the priests and lay people who will speak at Mass, and that He open the hearts of parishioners who hear the message. Some parishes even have special Eucharistic Adoration immediately preceding their Renewal.
In Jesus’ Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the Pharisee exhibits all the good respectable qualities. The Tax Collector is just the opposite, both a traitor to his people and a greedy cheat who takes more than he is due. But God accepts the prayer of the Tax Collector and not that of the Pharisee. Why? Because the Pharisee is busy praising his own goodness and is concerned about his opinion of himself. The Tax Collector, knowing what sort of person he is, asks God for mercy and forgiveness.
Oct. 24, 2010 –Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
After all, the Pharisee was respectable, as he reminded God in his prayer. He proclaimed himself clean of the sins of greed, dishonesty, and adultery. He pointed out that he fasted twice a week, instead of the once a week commonly practiced. He even asserted his own generosity, evidenced by tithing his entire income. The Pharisee was indeed respectable. He even sounds like the sort of parishioner many pastors would love to have. He’s never in trouble, and his pledge is always up to date.
Occasionally, I watch the Rev. Joel Osteen preach from his non-denominational mega-church in Dallas. He fills this former hockey arena to capacity every Sunday. His message is completely positive, inspiring people to live their lives to the fullest based upon the foundational belief that God created us good, equips us to live positive lives, and to spread the positive message to others by word and example. He teaches people how to be successful in life by living godly, positive lives. His church’s symbol is the world globe. You will not find the cross at his church, which is an incorporated business under his family’s control.
Of course, I do not watch the Rev. Osteen enough to know if he preaches on Jesus Christ. In the sermon I heard, there was no reference to Jesus, which I thought was a bit odd. Certainly, Jesus was implied, but there was nothing explicit. Nor did I hear anything about sin, suffering, death and the promise of eternal life. No one was condemned. Certain traits such as negative thinking, “pity parties,” inaction and so on were described as what others do which Rev. Osteen’s followers could overcome by their positive outlook on life and responding to the power within themselves. His is a “happy, peppy” religion where faith empowers one to give thanks for what you have, not worry about what you don’t have and allow God to overcome the rest.
Jesus encouraged persistent prayer when he told the Parable of the Persistent Widow. While the unjust judge gave justice to the widow only because of her persistent appeals, God our Father is eager to answer our prayers in the ways best for us.
However, persistence in prayer on our part is called for, just as Moses prayed for the Israelites throughout their battle with the Amalekites, even when he needed help. Timothy, too, is urged to persistence in his ministry, whether it’s convenient or not. For our persistence in prayer is not to change God’s mind but to change us to conform to God’s nature.
Oct. 17, 2010 – Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Whatever people reacted when they heard Jesus teaching, they never thought he was boring. Indeed, he often upset them, because he spoke in ways that overturned their conventional ideas about God and proper human behavior.
One example is the Parable of the Dishonest Steward (Luke 16) that was read a few weeks ago, where Jesus seems at first to praise the steward for his dishonesty. Another example can be found in the Gospel from Luke 18, the Parable of the Persistent Widow, which is read today. Isn’t Jesus making a comparison between God and the unjust judge who doesn’t care about right and wrong but only his own peace and quiet?
Editor’s Note: This is the final in a five-part series by Msgr. Jim Costigan on The Pillars of Parish Stewardship.
In the fifth and final 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 fourth pillar: service.
Throughout Sacred Scripture, there are numerous references to service. There is the parable of the vigilant and faithful servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, “ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12: 35-40). There is the story of the good Samaritan who was moved with compassion to help the victim of a violent robbery (Lk 10: 25-37). And there are several examples of Christ serving those around Him: feeding the multitudes, healing the sick, and even turning water into wine at a wedding banquet.