Leaving This World a Little Better

Posted on February 17, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

Anne Frank QuoteMy pastor likes to say that his parents would always remind him to “leave a place you visited a little better than the way you found it.” I have always tried to live by those words as well. The important word here is “tried” as I am sure that I have not always been successful.

The desire to always go a step further, to give even more than is required, is truly honorable. Jesus speaks to his disciples about this when he urges them to give more than what is asked and to travel two miles in service when all that was required of them is one.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to live the same way. It is fundamental to understanding a stewardship way of life. True generosity has no limits.

When we say that mature disciples are to answer the call of Jesus Christ regardless of the cost, we are inviting good stewards to embody this type of generosity. We can be the person who does not respond to the call, be the person who responds and gives what is required, or finally, be the person who seeks to give above and beyond what is required.

God doesn’t just give us what we need, but He gives us more than we need. Made in His image, we are called to do the same. If we try to live in this manner everyday, then we might just succeed on leaving this world a little better than the way we found it.

“Cross” Eyed

Posted on February 16, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Post by Steve Bostford

Jesus Heals the Blind ManWhen Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida, people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked, “Do you see anything?”

Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly. Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village,” (Mark 8:22-26).

After my confirmation class my co-teacher confided in me that she was suffering because of her job and personal circumstances and compounding responsibilities. She wondered if God was listening as he prayed as her situation had  progressively gotten worse over time. I certainly wondered how to respond to such a dire situation and desperate plea for help.

In today’s Gospel reading Mark tells us three important things about healing: 1) the faith of the community is important, 2) reconciliation to the people of the community is important, and 3) the gift of faith is important. Jesus’ healing love enables us to see the world anew with the eyes of faith.

What should our response be to people in need of healing? As part of the community of faith we are called to have faith and lead others to Jesus and the Church, his and our community. We are to embrace those in need with compassion and offer tenderness and support. And together, we are to gaze upon the cross of the one who has gone before us in great suffering. By keeping our eyes on the cross of Jesus we are able to humbly approach the one who understands, loves, and reconciles.

Steve Botsford is the Director of Religious Education at St. Ann Catholic Church in Marietta, GA. He holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a Master of Religious Education from Loyola University, New Orleans. Steve is married with three children and is the creator of FeastDay, the Liturgical Year Board Game.

Hope in the Midst of Division

Posted on February 14, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

A post from Teresa Keogh

Crochet 2Where can I be hope in a divided place?

Work took me to Cyprus this weekend and I decided to Visit Buyuk Han, an old camel trading post in the city of Nicosia – but on the Turkish side. The Han is now a craft market and restaurant.

I crossed the checkpoint, showing my passport on first the Greek and then the Turkish side. Inside I found this crochet. Here I found hope in the midst of distrust.

Crocheting squares and joining them together is joining these two communities that have been divided for so many years.

CrochetA simple act of crochet has done what politics has failed to do. It is breaking down barriers and then building anew in a spirit of trust.

Where is God inviting me to spread peace when there is fear? I ask for the courage to work for unity whether in my home, the workplace or the world.

Teresa Keogh is Advisor for Stewardship for the Archdiocese of Southwark in London, England and previously served as Advisor for Stewardship and Collaborative Ministry for Portsmouth Diocese. 

God’s Rules or God Rules?

Posted on February 9, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

No RulesI saw a slogan once for an Internet start-up: “There is one rule; there are no rules.” In fact, when I searched for this slogan again online, I was surprised at all of the variations on the “no rules” sentiment.

Apparently, even Justin Bieber has a documented quote: “I want my world to be fun. No parents, no rules, no nothing. Like, no one can stop me. No one can stop me.” Wow. My own kids seldom read my reflections. If they are reading this one, DON’T GET ANY IDEAS!

Of course, a society without laws or rules will not exist for very long. The laws of a society are there to protect us from perhaps our greatest enemy: ourselves. We can’t just do whatever we feel like. We will eventually hurt others or ourselves.

The laws of God and His Church have the same effect. Sinful and imperfect people need parameters. Christians who choose sin or their own will over God’s commandments not only break the relationship they have with their God, but they hurt others and diminish the Body of Christ.

A stewardship way of life asks of us to live in a certain manner. We sometimes think that our cultivation of gifts and giving them back with increase to God is for God’s sake. God’s commands do not benefit God, for God is complete and perfect without need for increase. But this way of life is for the benefit of His creation.

There is no power struggle here between a God of rules and his children. The cross bears witness to that. Instead, God’s “rules’ prevent us from destroying ourselves and give us a path so we may flourish. Whether you are an ordinary Joe or an ordinary Bieber, following God’s commands will lead to the real satisfaction in this gift of life.

Angels Among Us

Posted on February 3, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Today’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews instructs us to “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”

Recently I read a news story about the actor Matthew McConaughey whose car broke down in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I took interest since I was raised in that wonderful state.

Ward's Restaurant - Hattiesburg, MSWhile he was stranded on the road, a man whose brother owned a tow truck stopped to help out. The truck soon arrived and took the car to a shop to have it fixed. While waiting, the man took McConaughey for a burger at Ward’s Restaurant.

McConaughey couldn’t believe the hospitality – the people of Hattiesburg were kind and the burger was great. He exclaimed in the story that he might retire in Hattiesburg because nothing like this would happen in Los Angeles! And, surprisingly, no one who met him that day knew who he was.

Matthew McConaughy AngelI retweeted the story proud of my home state and was reminded of today’s passage from Hebrews. McConaughey may not be an angel (though my wife surely thinks he is), but it was a great story of hospitality from The Hospitality State.

I was disappointed to find out later that I had been hoodwinked by a fake news site. Since I know many people like that from Mississippi, it was easy to believe. And Ward’s is a real place.

Nonetheless, we are called as Christians to be just like the imagined Good Samaritans from Hattiesburg. Those travelers on the road to Emmaus brought a stranger into their home, one who seemed to be wholly unaware of what had been going on in Jerusalem, and He turned out to be the Lord Himself.

Hospitality is a central theme of our Christian faith and we are reminded that we never know who we might be entertaining. This is particularly relevant today when the issue of immigration and refugees divides the country and even Christians. On the one hand we fear the stranger who might harm us, and yet we are compelled by Christ’s command to welcome those who seek safety and peace.

How Current is Jesus?

Posted on February 2, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Godspell Cast ImageI recently watched the 1973 film adaptation of Godspell with my teenage daughter. I had such fond memories of watching it when I was young, back in the day.

I listened to the soundtrack so many times and learned to play many of the songs on my guitar. The exclamation from the show, “You are the light of the world!” has always been firmly planted in my mind.

After about ten minutes, my daughter looked at me with that look only a teenage girl can display. “What is this?” she asked with a certain level of condescension. Yes, the film did not hold up so well in the eyes of this twenty-first century critic. So we laughed most of the way through it.

What attracted me to the film and the soundtrack in the first place, however, wasn’t Jesus in a Superman shirt or the idea of the apostles wondering around the urban jungle. I was attracted to the message. I was attracted to that assertion in the song, “You are the light of the world.”

There will always be people who see the Gospel of Jesus Christ as dated, irrelevant, and even hokey. You and I are called to be the light of the world? Good stewards must never shy away from living lives that truly bear witness to the reality of the Gospel. The parables of Jesus have as much meaning for us today as ever. Look around. The world we live in needs a little light for sure.

Rooted in Faith

Posted on February 1, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

“So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith,” (Mark 6:6).

Cross of FaithEvery day we are presented with opportunities to question and think critically. It may be a situation that someone else presents or, in fact, may be something we face directly. Let me explain.

Recently, I read about a long time school principal that pled guilty to embezzlement of school funds. Apparently, he had served flawlessly as an educator for many years, growing in responsibility, and rising in the ranks. In his new role, however, he found himself with access to school funds. Experiencing personal financial hardships, he made the decision to skim money, which led to several years of the same activity.

There are so many lessons here but is it not true that we are all faced with temptations every day? Temptations may vary in penalty but are equally rooted in a lack of faith.

Recently, my 15-year-old daughter woke up late and missed the bus. This is hardly an equal temptation compared with embezzlement, but potentially as poisonous just the same. I questioned her level of responsibility, her ability to take school seriously, and her priorities. I was tempted to make her stay home as a punishment. I then asked a different set of questions. How could I best help her, by punishing her or taking her to school?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. Some who heard him asked where he got this knowledge, what kind of wisdom was this, and what great things would come. Others recognized him as the carpenter’s son, son of Mary and identified him as a local. The first set of questions were built on faith yet the second came from doubt and lack of faith.

Perhaps the school principal could have had faith and asked God for help but took the situation into his own hands. Today, let us think critically about the everyday situations we face and identify the questions that are rooted in doubt and ask the ones rooted in faith.

Steve Botsford is a husband, Father, Catechist, Educational Consultant, Blogger, and Game Designer. There’s only one life to live, so let’s live it to the fullest! (John 10:10)

Living the Beatitudes

Posted on January 26, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Growing UpSometimes I wonder what this world will look like when my children get to be my age. Everything seems to be changing so rapidly and much of that change doesn’t seem to be for the good.

I do think in some ways the Church is definitely experiencing a resurgence and strengthening, but it will have to do so in the face of an increasing culture of atheism and selfishness.

Of course, I bet my parents wondered the same thing when I was a child. As much as things change, they remain the same. When Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount, I would guess some parents there were having the same kind of worries. But Jesus proposed a way of life in the Beatitudes that was counter cultural then and is counter cultural now.

BeatitudesIn his book, Life of Christ, Fulton Sheen said this: “The Sermon on the Mount is so much at variance with all that our world holds dear that the world will crucify anyone who tries to live up to its values.”

Living a stewardship way of life means bringing the Beatitudes into our daily lives in a profound way. However, it also means living in a way that others may not understand or they may even turn away from us because of it. But with the reward in the end being the Kingdom of Heaven, the choice is really a matter of life and death, eternally speaking.

#LoveLikeFrancis

Posted on January 23, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Love without LimitsThere seems to be much going on in our world right now about standing up for what is right and spreading a message of love rather than hate. Regardless of who you want to point the finger at as a source of hate, the reality is that we all need to be mindful of the barriers in our hearts and minds to truly giving love without limits.

Each of us is one sinner among sinners. But we do need to take a stand when extremes threaten to choke one’s ability to love.

One great campaign, especially from a Catholic point-of-view, is the #LoveLikeFrancis campaign which offers people inexpensive posters, t-shirts, stickers, and more with great slogans and images championing attitudes voiced by Pope Francis. As a Catholic or a Christian it is not possible to align ourselves with every group that speaks of love for some of those also include platforms that are anti-religious or anti-Christian. But with campaigns like this we can remind people of the fundamental command to love our neighbor and the need to safeguard the human dignity of everyone.

Sure, at the end of the day these are really just catchy slogans on fabric or paper. They don’t produce real change in themselves. But they are one additional way of spreading the Good News about a God who calls us to care for each other.

If that’s our goal, I think we can use all the help we can get.

Visit: www.lovelikefrancis.com

Jesus is ALWAYS the Main Thing

Posted on January 20, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

JesusSo the NFL season is almost over. Only two championship games and the Super Bowl remain. For some fans, the season is already over since their team is now sitting at home.

It is amazing the allegiance some people have to their teams. Some people bleed Green Bay green and yellow or believe the only team is supposedly America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, if you are reading this outside the States, perhaps you live and breathe a team like the New Zealand All Blacks or the Calgary Flames.

In the early Church, people took their allegiance to certain leaders to an extreme. Paul chastised them for thinking that the baptism of one community or the teachings of a certain leader were superior to the anything else in this new movement of Jesus followers.

Paul reminded them that there is to be no division in Christ and that all things flow from Christ, not from the leaders in the community. Those who follow Jesus are one Body of Christ: a place where there is no room for competition or condescension.

Sometime our stewardship efforts in a parish become all about the parish. We seek to get people to do more stuff and give more money and we lose sight of why we live a stewardship way of life in the first place: Jesus.

It is wonderful to watch our parishes grow into more vibrant communities that lead people to Jesus. We should rejoice to be in such a parish family. But one day there will be no parishes and those who have received His gifts freely and have followed Him will live with Christ as one forever. In your stewardship, always keep Jesus as the main thing.