One of the bronzes at the entrance of our parish church depicts the adoration of the Magi, who were the first to bring gifts to the Christ child, but they were hardly the last. Christian charity has transformed the world in overwhelming ways ever since, and it is a very important part of our lives as committed Catholics. In the earliest days of the Church, we have understood that we, as Church, must be attentive to our larger community’s needs. In the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we read:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.”
So from the beginning there was a willingness among Christians to share among ourselves, but also with others in their need. This charity is at the heart of our Christian stewardship, and we are reminded in Sacred Scripture over and over again that God will be generous to us at the end of our lives based on, in no small part, just how we have revealed his generosity and his charity throughout our earthly lives. Moreover, again in scripture, we find this notion of charity as it relates to the example of a steward. A steward is not the owner of the estate, but someone who watches over it, and keeps it vital and producing. As Catholics we live in God’s house, which is the Church, but we are not guest, but stewards of his home. It is true that we are adopted as his children in Christ, but we are nevertheless meant to bring his name honor by how we live in and serve and support his house, the Church. In Biblical tradition we have always looked at 10% as the tithe that we owe the Lord. The Church teaches us that this ideal can be divided between our parish and other worthy Christian charities, but we should not lose site of the ideal. If everyone gave 5% to their parish, OLM would never have to worry about finances again, so we encourage everyone to prayerfully consider how they spend their money, and what is it they are really investing in.
But now allow us to say one last thing before we close, and this message goes out to those who are the wealthiest among us. Many of you are so very generous to your parish, and we are so very grateful, but some among you need a bit prodding from time to time. A pastor doesn’t like to talk about money all the time, but it is part of our job to help people be more generous for the sake of their own salvation. So let us end by recalling that the Apostle, St. Paul, towards the end of his life, wrote some letters most likely whilst he was under house arrest to his younger protégé, St. Timothy, who he was instructing on how to lead the church as a bishop in the post Apostolic age. The relationship between Paul and Timothy is that of a father and son. Together they had traveled the world, and Timothy had helped Paul in his ministry for years. But Paul sensed that his life was coming to an end, and so these letters to Timothy are particularly touching. In I Timothy, chapter 6, St. Paul writes:
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
And finally, let us keep in mind that even in difficult financial times when some families are struggling to keep their homes or make their insurance payments, we all have some talents and time to give. Stewardship is not simply about financial help for our parish and its ministries. Stewardship also involves time. So let us all volunteer in our parish when asked, because this great collective effort of the Church is at the bequest of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it should always be a great honor and joy to serve He who gave up his life for our redemption.