Homily – November 6th, 2011
CHEERFUL GIVER “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). God is associated with light rather than with darkness, with the giving of gifts rather than with passionate grasping and fierce desire.
In our best moments, we think of the Good Samaritan who stops on his journey to aid a man whom the robbers have stomped in the ditch. The priest and the Levite avoid noticing, but the foreigner from Samaria embraces the victim and cares for him. Such charity touches us. It exemplifies God’s goodness in bringing us into being. “I am,” we say to ourselves; “by the grace of God, I exist; I am.” When I give something of myself—my hour, my thinking, my energy—I feel godlike, and I imitate my Creator.
Jesus sat down opposite the [temple] treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then [Jesus] called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44).
Our Lord apparently approves of people contributing to the upkeep of the temple. The widow exemplifies people. She contributes to the temple.
Our parish faces a problem that has arisen in the Archdiocese and in
many households. In recent months, we find a pattern that causes alarm. The Parish Finance Committee sounds a clear anxiety; ordinary income in the Sunday collection has fallen off by ten percent. Beginning in July, we have fallen between three and four thousand dollars behind our budget each month. Some wise and helpful person will offer this advice: adjust the budget to meet the exigencies of the times. However, we constructed the budget narrowly, conservatively, for surely, we thought at the time, our income would exceed tight budget figures. Budget conservatively, we said; envelopes and contributions will clearly cover expenses. The Finance Council pointed to previous years in which we managed our fiscal affairs.
Beyond a doubt, this parish has fiscally achieved. With some pride we point to our Faith Center; less than a year and one-half have passed since our Archbishop went room to room, blessing areas for religious education and elementary pupils, for our teens, for adult meeting rooms. The pastoral offices with a fine entrance and conference room bring joy to the parish. In a few months, we hope to retire the debt on this building. This year the parish fundraiser dinner aided the budget; it cleared $65,000. Were I to enumerate reasons and people for thankfulness, I would be like St. Paul, unable to cease.
Our country suffers fiscal hardship. The majority of our parishioners, however, like the majority in our country, and in our county, have avoided unemployment. The parish looks to the gainfully employed. Let us consider several fiscal issues. (A) On behalf of unemployed parishioners, we hope for relief soon. From you, we look for continued participation in our spiritual efforts. If you have received a pink slip, you are exempt from my urging. I request, however, that you pray for the
parish, that you ask the Lord to graciously advance His Kingdom in this
bit of the cosmos. Let your prayer be insistent and continuous.
(B) In the next issue, having inspected expenses, we find budgeted items that will be pared. We have attended to our bills, and we have initiated cuts, necessary slices, even if unfriendly.
(C) In a third issue, perhaps some parishioners have not considered a change over the years in their donation to the church. St. Paul records the Lord as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”(Acts 20:35). We could ask if my conscience bothers me; does my donation today have an old fashioned weight and wear old fashioned clothes?
(D) Again, five dollars each Sunday no longer pays our water bill. Postage has increased; five dollars each Sunday no longer pays the postman. I appeal to parishioners whose donation has not watched inflation. The electrical bill has not stayed; and the year 2005 has not stayed. The trees in your yard annually add a ring, annually grow branches somewhat longer.
(E) Besides, our request is not large. Our fall-off amounts to ten percent. Adding one dollar to a ten dollar donation would help the parish. If you regularly contribute twenty dollars, please consider twenty-two dollars. Well, on the other hand, maybe twenty-two dollars and fifty cents. With a ten percent increase in continued giving, we will regain our footing and meet our budgeted expenses.
Our effort is religious. At the Offertory of the Mass, the money is placed in the basket and brought to the altar. This collection suggests our involvement in the sacrificial offering, and it suggests gratitude for God’s beneficence to me.
Recently, I saw a cartoon in which two men conversed as they waited on a tiny, deserted island in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. One shabby survivor from a wrecked vessel despaired, saying, “I am afraid that no one will ever find us.” In response, his sun burned companion remained optimistic. “Don’t worry,” said this second man, “I give five thousand dollars to my church. My pastor will find us!” Amen.