Mature disciples come in all ages. To test maturity one simply needs to ask the question given to us in the challenge of the Bishop’s pastoral letter: “Will I follow Jesus Christ no matter the cost?” One cannot grow in a sense of stewardship if he or she is always “counting the cost.”
For too long we have allowed our faith to be a component of our lives, rather than the lens through which we see all aspects of our life. This has led to a presentation of Church as a place where we spend part of our Sunday and sometimes volunteer some time. In fact, we are Church, and that reality does not change for six days of the week. We are Church 24/7. And the proclamation of the Good News on a Sunday serves only to strengthen us to proclaim that Good News the other six days of the week.
Stewardship must never be a philosophy of how much we contribute to our church in terms of time, talent, and treasure. It is much more than that. It is about how we use all the gifts we have been given in all aspects of our life.
For Sunday, August 2, 2015, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
There it is! Right outside my window. I’m here in the Negev Desert of Israel. It’s possible that Moses and the chosen people walked in this area a few thousand years ago. Right now at 4:30 PM, the temperature is 103.6 degrees in the shade. Just two weeks ago, at about this time of day, we went for a ride in the desert. Travel books recommend drinking a quart of water an hour, if walking. Our water bottles were full. Our hats were on. Our desert shoes were ready if we needed to walk for a better view. We were about two hours out when roaring up and over a mound, we landed with a jolt. We were up to the hubcaps in a bed of loose sand. The car quit.
I trekked up the trace of the road and saw camel tracks in the sand. No other vehicles in sight. Our two guides were working on the car and got it started. We sipped our water. Everything, including the water, was hot! They dug the tires clear and laid canvas behind them. Three of us pushed as one steered backwards… back and back until he cleared the mound. The motor was hot! All of our drinking water went into the radiator.
Evening shadows began creeping over the desert. We were warned not to go out into the desert at night. Snakes and scorpions come out after dark. There was great relief and many “alleluias” when we got back to home base.
Reflecting on this and looking at the desert in front of me, I marvel over Moses leading the chosen people through these wildernesses. As I look around, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to eat out there. Desiccated acacia trees dot the landscape, along with thorny scrub. Can humans eat wood? Are the weeds edible? There are so many thorns!
While there is a little green at the edge of a wadi, no water is visible this time of the year. How deep would we have to dig to find some? Our small group could have survived until morning, but what about the multitude with Moses? Had I lived in those days, I would have been one of the complainers wanting to go back!
God was marvelously compassionate as he listened to all the groaning rising up from that desert. Instead of losing patience with them and sending punishment, God gave the grumblers new signs of love… bread, but only enough for the day. Still the complaints pierced the heavens. God sent quail. Yes, there are quail here even now. About three families rush across our roads, chicks all aflutter. In spring, the migrations are superabundant. God is so generous! He gave them meat as well as bread.
God had worked mightily to free these people from slavery. But they forgot about all of that. God has worked mighty works—mighty works—to save us! But we forget! Most of us don’t have the opportunity to live in the desert, but sometimes, in our hearts, we walk in a very arid place. We lose hope because it is so dry, so empty. We thirst for love. We hunger for the bread of appreciation and success. We may even want to give up in our forward progress to the Promised Land. We complain. It is too hard. I want consolation. I want rewards for my struggles. I want to return to the fleshpots of old, easier ways. We grumble and grouse. God never loses patience. Infinite compassion is God’s name. But just as God gave food for the day to the Israelites, God gives us what we need for the day. We even pray as Jesus taught us, “Give us this day!” That food is God’s very self. What more could we want?
Jesus tells the hungering crowd of his day that he himself is the bread of life. In their desert, he promised they would never hunger, they would never thirst. But what food was Jesus talking about? What drink? The crowd had experienced physical food and an easy handout. Their hands were stretched out for more of that! They wanted the security that their ancestors wanted. Long-term security! Not just for today!
Jesus himself struggled with this temptation. “Turn these stones into bread,” the evil one suggested. “Satisfy your hunger.” “Go back to the fleshpots of Egypt.” But, no, he resisted. He trusted his beloved Father would take care of him. Jesus moved forward in his desert in trust, in faith. He wants us to take that same leap of faith. He wants us to “believe in the one he [God] sent.”
Am I in a desert? What do I hunger for? What do I thirst for? Can I trust that God himself is the only satisfaction for those yearnings?
Patricia DeGroot, OblSB
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.
My strength and my refuge is the LORD,
and he has become my savior.
This is my God, I praise him;
the God of my father, I extol him.
The LORD is a warrior,
LORD is his name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army he hurled into the sea;
the elite of his officers were drowned in the Red Sea.
The flood waters covered them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,
your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.
In your great majesty you overthrew your adversaries;
you loosed your wrath to consume them like stubble…
In your love you led the people you redeemed;
in your strength you guided them to your holy dwelling…
You brought them in, you planted them
on the mountain that is your own—
The place you made the base of your throne, LORD,
the sanctuary, LORD, your hands established.
May the LORD reign forever and ever!
—Exodus 15:1b-7, 13, 17-18. Scripture text taken from the NABRE © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 CCD, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The teaching of Jesus is not another opinion. His words are spirit and life, giving us this God-vision that helps us to see things the way that God sees them. When we begin to see things the way that God sees them, we can face and overcome anything in this life.
How easy is it to spend all our time getting our physical house in order and having our spiritual house in disarray? We need to find time for God no matter how busy we are.
There are people all throughout our lives that feel like there is not enough in this life for them. But with our actions of love, they miraculously are filled with what they need. Of course, a tray of good cornbread doesn’t hurt either.
Pope Francis’ two-day stop in Philadelphia may garner more attention in the city than the signing of the Declaration of Independence. This is projected to be one of the largest events in the city that was the original capital of the U.S. If you are planning on attending the event, here are a few things you need to know:
One of the most effective ways to evangelize is not preaching hellfire and brimstone all the time (although there is a place for that) but to watch for conversations and openings. You don’t have to have all the answers, but you need to have a bit of courage and a good bit of enthusiasm and joy.
For Sunday, July 26, 2015, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is there enough to go around?
Living in an industrialized nation, it can be easy to forget how much poverty there is in our world. With all the advances in technology over the past century, we might even be deluded into thinking that most people lead relatively productive and comfortable lives.
Unfortunately, just the opposite is true.
According to the World Bank, seventeen percent of the world’s population subsists on less than $1.25 per day. An astounding 2.2 billion human beings live on less than $2.00 per day. One quarter of the world’s population lives without electricity.
An estimated six hundred million children live in poverty and 6.9 million under the age of five died in 2011. An estimated twenty-four thousand children die every day because of malnutrition or lack of health care. Almost one and a half million children die each year because they lack clean water. Over two million children die each year because they are not immunized. And fifteen million children are orphaned because their parents have died of AIDS.
As it turns out, most of the world lives in total and abject poverty.
The thought of billions of people starving to death and suffering because of untreated illnesses can overwhelm us. We might feel powerless to do anything about it, or believe we lack the resources to help all these people.
However, consider this. It is estimated that it would cost $30 billion per year to end world hunger. By contrast, Americans spend $38.7 billion annually on cosmetics including lipstick, hair gel, and deodorant. Pet owners in the United States spent over $55 billion annually on products and services for their dogs, cats and canaries. Most scandalous of all, it is estimated that Americans waste over $161 billion of food every year. Just the cost to throw all that food away is estimated to be around one billion dollars.
There is plenty to go around. However, we who have more than we need are failing to share it with others and, even worse, wasting it.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read: “In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself” (CCC §2404). While we have a right to our private property, we can never lose sight of the fact that the earth and her goods have been given to all of us. In a more pointed way, Pope Francis, in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, references the bishops of New Zealand in asking, “What the commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’ means when ‘twenty percent of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive’” (LS §95).
In this Sunday’s Gospel, it takes a miracle for Jesus to feed the multitude. In today’s world, it would only take each of us experiencing a change of heart to look upon all that we have as a gift to be shared with others. It would take redefining success not as having the most and the best of everything but as serving others even to the point of denying ourselves. It would take an end to our wasteful habits of showering every day, eating too much, and having too many clothes. I suspect that, if we take these steps, we’ll discover that the hole in our hearts we were trying to fill with all those possessions will be more than filled with the sense of communion and solidarity we’ll experience with our poor sisters and brothers and with our earth.
Douglas Sousa, STL
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
—A prayer for our earth, Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ §246.