I want to speak to you about stewardship today. I always find it to be a challenge, but I found consolation in today’s readings, as they seem to promote the sharing our first fruits. Our first reading is from the prophet Ezekiel who proclaims to the people: Thus says the lord God: “I too will take from the crest of the cedar from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot and plant it on a high mountain. It shall put forth branches and bear fruit and become a majestic cedar. Listen to those words again: God is saying “I will take from the crest of the cedar plant it on high and it shall - put forth branches - bear fruit!”
Most people are familiar with the expression: “When in Rome do as the Romans do” I think we can go a step further: “When in the presence of God do as God would do.” God is telling us how he is pruning a tender shoot and planting it so it bears fruit. You and I need to be walking in God’s shadow and adhering to what he does. St, Paul tells us in his letter to Corinthians we need to be courageous and aspire to please the Lord for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ so that each of us may receive recompense for what we did whether good or evil. As I’m reading this, I’m wondering what that means for me?
We are so fortunate to live in America and even more fortunate to live in Door County. We live in some of the most beautiful surroundings in the world. We know this because people are coming here from all parts of the country. I believe God wants us to enjoy it here, but I also think God expects something from us in return. To be so blest - is truly a grace from God we just need to learn how to - pay it forward.
The United States Council of Catholic Bishops states that we should receive gifts from God gratefully and to always remember that everything we have is from God. We can easily have the temptation to think that we are self-made, but we have to be honest with ourselves and know it is God who gave us the great head start - by giving so many opportunities. The council also stated that we need to cultivate the gifts we were given responsibly by growing them and using them well and by returning to God some of the investment we made with them. As missionary disciples we need to look at how we pray and how we use our time and how we distribute our treasure.
I believe Prayer sets the tone for how we minister to others and make sacrifices for them. It helps us have empathy for them. I was reading recently that tithing - not only comes from having empathy for others but from - having a greater awareness of ourselves. You and I need to know who we are if we hope to be the person we’re called to be. You and I are brothers and sisters in Christ and as his brothers and sisters we need to - emulate his willingness to sacrifice for others and go out of the way for others
I remember before seminary when in the workforce - having a conversation with an employee who told me: You’re not being honest with yourself. I replied that I was, but he said No you’re not. You claim you want to do some thing, with your life but you’re not doing it and he was right. I wonder how often people say they want to do something but fail to do it. I’m not only speaking about another occupation but how we can make a difference help ing others. We just need to take that first step. Like everything else being a good Christian requires an effort towards commitment and sacrifice. We invest in our future for a better life - and for our retirement on earth, while we fail to see the need to prepare for our retirement - in heaven.
How do we as Christians get so side-tract from our greatest goal, attaining eternal life? What do we understand about sacrifice? We need to make a resolution to sacrifice for others so we can establish a better relationship with God. The church forms us into - the caring person God calls us to be which often means - a letting go of - all those things that pull us away from him. Giving of ourselves to others - is also - a time of purification for us
The greatest means of understanding what it means to be good stewards is gratitude. Looking at all the blessing’s we received throughout the years helps us to - appreciate all God has done for us and enables us to share our blessings. By looking at our blessings we won’t as easily get caught up in greed. In 1st timothy we read: Tell the Christians - not to be proud or - rely on wealth but know they are called upon to be - rich in good works and generous to others and - ready to share so they will be able to establish a better relationship with Our lord
God is the great multiplier of goodness - for just as he took the tender shoot from top of the cedar so new growth would come from it and grow a majestic tree, he also took the smallest of seeds, the mustard seed and grew it into the tallest of trees and produced fruit. God wants us to do the same. He wants us to produce our best fruits and give from our first fruits. Know how grateful I am for what you have already done for the parish especially during the last months during covid.
An email was sent out last week with information about our parish and your stewardship commitment for the upcoming year. Please take time to pray about the ways you can best invest yourself in the parish throughout the upcoming stewardship drive, perhaps as a cantor or lector or member of the finance or parish council or help us a little more financially we would be most grateful. If we can stretch ourselves just a little more, God will do the rest - to help us to wisely use our time and invest our talents and share our treasure. With faith - we will be able to bring to the altar what we gave from our hearts, thank you again for all you do, and know you’re in my prayers as you reflect on how you can better - live out the Gospel.