In our parish communities, we ask people to give of themselves more and more. We use St. Paul’s image of the Body of Christ to illustrate how we all play a part in God’s Kingdom, each with a unique charim. We express that the need is great and that the only way for us to succeed is to pull together. Then, we express our frustrations behind the scenes because most people still don’t step forward. One reason why is that many seated in our pews do not have an answer to the question, “What do I have to give?”
“So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure.” – St. Andrew of Crete
This is complicated, isn’t it? Today crosses come in all shapes, sizes, and functions. You can find them encrusted with diamonds around the necks of celebrities. You can find them in stylized wall hangings, set in craft stores alongside distressed wood signs advising us to “Live – Laugh – Love.” St. Andrew of Crete lived in the seventh century. For St. Andrew, the cross would have retained its original, terrible value as a method of execution. Here we come to the great paradox of Christianity: a method of death as a means to life, a “treasure,” and cause of triumph.
Today’s feast, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, reminds us that we’re not only stewards of our gifts. We’re also stewards of our sufferings.
These past few weeks, the United States has been battered by events of cataclysmic proportions. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the Equifax data breach have shoved tit-for-tat political headlines out of the limelight. Compelling, community-driven stories abound, whether it’s the quirky tenacity of Key West residents, a moving letter from the mayor of New Orleans, or Beyoncé volunteering in her hometown.
For those of us without connections to the South, the events could seem distant, and beyond the sphere of immediate concern, a matter of sympathetic thoughts, $20 donations, and passing prayers. For residents, however, the aftermath can stretch far into the future.
An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time
I have to smile when I read in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another.” I smile because I know that in today’s world few people owe nothing to anyone. We have credit card debt, mortgages, student loans, car loans, and new loans to consolidate old loans. It would seem that we actually owe everything to everyone.
This time of the year the words “generous, extravagant, and abundant and beautiful” seem to be floating in the air. The farmer’s market this past weekend reminded me of that, with so many tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and green beans. The riot of colors and the anticipation of that ripe tomato sliced with a bit of salt was mouth-watering! Then the flowers! Dahlias, mums, purple status, cone flowers, zinnias, all tucked into big bunches waiting for a home to adorn. It made me happy to just walk amid the booths and seeing people choosing and chatting and taking time to pick just the right things.
Guest Post by Chuck Frost
“Purity of heart is what enables us to see.” ― Pope Benedict XVI
I’ve always been fond of a scene in the movie City Slickers, a story of three friends who go on a cattle drive adventure to New Mexico to help sort out their mid-life problems. Billy Crystal plays one of those friends, Mitch, and Jack Palance plays the trail boss, Curly. A turning point for Mitch comes in a scene where he and Curly are riding horseback together.
Curly says to Mitch: “You all come up here about the same age, same problems. You spend about fifty weeks a year getting knots in your rope and then you think two weeks up here will untie them for you. But none of you get it.” He continues: “You know what the secret of life is? Mitch replies, “No, what?” Curly then slowly holds up one finger and says, “One thing, just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean [nothing].” Mitch then asks, “What’s the one thing?” And Curly answers, “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”
Recent events in our nation’s history ought to make us pause and ask one convicting question: “What’s going on here in Ferguson, in Charlottesville?” As we scroll through social media feeds and listen to news reports and talk with our neighbors, we rationalize an understanding of how we got in this place. But how can this technological advancement and racial violence be compatible in the same heart of our country?
G. K. Chesterton, when asked what’s wrong with the world, is said to have penned the most poignant answer that could have been given: “I am.”
An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
How many public self-storage facilities can you find in your city or town? They seem to be popping up everywhere. One day I was talking to my neighbor and he was explaining that he just wanted to have his garage back again. He was thinking about moving everything to a storage unit so he could gain what he wanted more than all that stuff: space. We talked about the fact that if he chose to follow through with it there was no shortage of places to house all of it. Of course, we also agreed that it would be better to simply let go of all it. He could sell it or give it away. But, of course, it was good stuff! So good, in fact, one was tempted to rent a whole new space to house it!
Everybody loves a good story. Stories of faith engage listeners differently than a list of facts or good ideas. When people share their faith journey with others, it offers powerful encouragement to both the storyteller and the recipient. I’ve been there too. We’re in this together. Parishes that limit their stewardship discussions to theological discussion and ignore the personal connection will have a difficult time fully engaging everyone. Finding and telling the right story is possible for every parish.
Having four kids (and three of them boys close in age) guarantees me at least two things in life: there will always be messes and there will always be fights. The latter is something that is, most days, minor or done in jest. But every once in awhile we get two of the stubborn ones fighting over a beloved toy and chaos ensues. One thing that catches my eye is the outside motivation that defuses the rage. I can usually tell how beloved the object is simply by what gets them to pull away for a second and get their head on straight again. “Oh, you’ll trade me for a cookie?” Then I secretly note the true value of the toy that I can likely donate in the future.
But the ones that really tell me something are the fights that end on their own with little help from me. When I remind them that pulling at the toy will likely break it, the first one to let go is usually the one that truly loves that toy—the rudimentary life lesson that if we truly love something (or someone) we have to be ready and willing to let it go if that is what is best for it. (more…)