An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016
“Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.
Freedom is exercised in relationships between human beings. Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect. The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and public order.” (CCC, 1731-32)
For those of us that are Americans, we must never take for granted the freedom we enjoy to worship and believe as we desire. God has given each human being the free will to shape one’s life.
There are many places in the world that seek to limit or destroy that free will. At times, even our own country risks curtailing those freedoms because of political agenda or blindness to the truth.
Good stewardship demands we not only give thanks for that freedom, but we use it to grow in faith and maturity. How can we not fully live out our faith in freedom when there are others in this world that have no way of expressing their beliefs?
Once we grow in our faith and become mature disciples, we need to recognize the need to fight for all of our human brothers and sisters that they may enjoy the same freedom that we do. We must not count the cost in this struggle, for the cost involved with doing nothing may be even greater.
For all those in the US, have a blessed and safe July 4th weekend!
Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew includes perhaps the most important question of all time. Jesus asks Peter, and in turn you and me, “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus wasn’t interested in hearing what everybody else was saying about him. He wanted to hear from Peter’s own mouth, “Who do YOU say that I am?”
Our understanding of Jesus can be molded by many influences: going to Mass, Bible studies, our own reading and study. The picture in our mind can be shaped by popular movies and books. Even what we believe Jesus asks of us can be informed by various preachers and teachers we trust.
But at the end of the day, Jesus asks us, “Who do YOU say that I am?”
People ask me if being on the road so much is hard. I tell them the hard part is being away from my family. However, I also say that the time away seems to give me a greater appreciation of my family when I am at home.
I take less things for granted and am more willing to give of myself. So the travel actually has been good for my family life in a way.
What I do tell people is that I am happiest when I am speaking or leading a workshop. The crazy thing is, outside of spending time with family, I can’t imagine doing anything else that would give me a greater sense of joy or accomplishment.
The world is a very busy place. Our lives are sometimes very complicated. Everywhere we turn there are distractions.
Add to all this the increasing number of people with virtually no attention span or diagnosed ADD and you have a reality where it can be quite hard to stay focused and committed to any task at hand.
In the past two years, I have given several talks in the Cleveland area at the request of the Diocese. Each time I spoke, it was about growing a more engaged parish community and the value of cultivating a sense of belonging.
I would begin each talk by playing the following Nike ad featuring Lebron James entitled Together.
There once lived a man named Alvin Straight. He lived in Iowa and his brother Henry lived in Wisconsin. Alvin loved his brother.
In 1994, at the age of eighty, Henry had a stroke. Alvin, in his late seventies himself, could not imagine not being there for the brother he loved, but he had no driver’s license and he was uneasy about forms of public transportation. So Alvin climbed aboard his riding lawnmower and set out on a 240-mile journey that eventually led him to Henry. (more…)
Have you ever been to Disneyland or Disney World? Disney is quite an amazing operation. What they do to make your visit as memorable as possible is perhaps the most amazing. The great sense of hospitality, the cleanliness of the park, and the attention to detail are ways they try to make you feel that you are at the “happiest place on earth.”
It is interesting the number of high school juniors and seniors that start getting involved in many school clubs, civic organizations, and even church activities. Don’t get me wrong. The work they do is often greatly needed in the communities in which they spend their time and give of their talent.
And I get it, since I have encouraged my own children to get more involved. However, many of these teens were missing in action during the first years of high school. There is one major motivator that gets them going and parents like me pushing: college applications.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if more people, regardless of their age, gave of themselves on a more regular and consistent basis? Too many of us need college applications or job resumes as motivation to get involved. (more…)
In Matthew chapters 5-7 Jesus delivers the greatest sermon the world has ever known. Christians should read these three chapters frequently. In fact, we would do well to memorize them.
But these chapters (also known as The Sermon on the Mount) can make us squirm a bit. Jesus says counter-cultural things like, “[I]f anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well.” Jesus didn’t really mean that did he?
Some try to wiggle around these very challenging statements of Jesus by saying that The Sermon on the Mount is an ideal rather than a directive.
I’m just not sure about that. Is there any place in the gospels where Jesus referred to his teaching as an ideal rather than a command? I can’t imagine Jesus ever saying “You aren’t really expected to pull this off, but it’s nice to think about and a good goal to shoot for.”
So what is the Sermon on the Mount saying to us?
Practice mercy – gratuitous mercy.
Go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you…Living out The Sermon on the Mount is embodied mercy.
Will we practice these perfectly? Of course not. They are hard teachings. But we keep these mandates before us and we keep at it.
This is why we follow Jesus. He is radical mercy in the flesh. His words and actions, by the world’s standards, can be uncomfortable and at times seem foolish and difficult to agree with. But as my former theology professor used to say, “Why should the Teacher be crucified for reinforcing what everyone else already knows and believes?”
Chuck Frost, Pastoral Associate at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke, Virginia.
There have been many times in the Church where we as Catholics latch on to trends and movements, attracted by a new concept or idea of how we should practice our faith. I think back to the 1970’s, where art and environment seemed to explode into so many different directions.
We were trying out new liturgical music forms, new ways of setting the tone of a worship space, and new prayer experiences we often labeled at para-liturgical.
Even though some will look back with nostalgia or even fondness, a lot of it wasn’t very good for it distracted some from the source and summit of our faith: the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Mass.
I mean, how many burlap and felt banners are too many? Some might say, “One!”
Regardless of how one might look back at those days, the reality is that most of it has passed away. It originated from humans and their experiences of the time. It was not some Divine revelation of how things should be.
Skeptics will say talk of stewardship in the Church today is really just a trend and it will pass away. In fact, I have been at conferences where presenters have suggested that it is time to leave the term stewardship behind. They think this spirituality has a human origin.
But stewardship is a spirituality that comes out of the parables and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Stewardship is more than the simple slogans we have used: The 3 T’s, an Attitude of Gratitude, and Sharing is Caring. It is about seeing all things as gifts from God, and the use of those gifts for His glory.
Stewardship is about total surrender to God, a complete lack of attachment to things of this world, and the giving of it all for eternal life in the next. It is about being a mature disciple.
And you can put that on a banner!