Category Archives: Stewardship

Opening Our Treasures

Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord
Sunday, January 6, 2019

Today the Church celebrates the Epiphany of the Lord. When I think of the word “epiphany” I think of those “Ah-hah!” moments in life when you gain a sudden insight or deeper meaning of something. As we experience from today’s Gospel, the word “epiphany” has another meaning – the manifestation or appearance of something. That “something” in today’s Gospel is the appearance of the Savior-child, Jesus. This “epiphany” occurs as the world realizes that the Messiah has come for all people.

We witness this in Matthew’s account of The Visit of the Magi (MT 2:1-12). In today’s Gospel we hear that familiar story of the three visitors (some call them Magi, some call them Wise men, others call them kings, scholars and pilgrims). These visitors come to pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews. They saw the star in the eastern sky and traveled as pilgrims to worship the Christ-child.

It’s important to note that these men were not Jewish, yet they acknowledged who Christ truly is. They understood that all nations are called to worship Christ, and that all people are called to praise him with the gift of their lives.

As we hear today, when the Magi found the Christ-child, they prostrated themselves (a sign of great reverence), they honored him for who he is (the Savior-king), and the “opened their treasures” and presented him with precious gifts befitting a king (gold, frankincense, and myrrh).

THREE GIFTS

Theologians over the years have provided a deeper meaning of these three gifts given by the Magi.

Saint Irenaeus teaches that these three gifts signify the mystery of the Incarnate God (God who became man). He teaches that:

  • Gold is a symbol of Christ’s royalty
  • Frankincense (a fragrance used in worship, point’s to Christ’s divinity
  • Myrrh (an oil used as a burial ointment) represents Christ’s humanity – especially in his passion and death

Pope Saint Gregory teaches us that these same items represent gifts that we are to present to God in our daily lives. He teaches that:

  • Gold is the wisdom of God which is to shine in our lives
  • Frankincense is the prayer and adoration we are to give God
  • Myrrh is our daily sacrifices we offer to the Lord

So, with this understanding, a question we should ask ourselves is:

How do we continue to shine in God’s wisdom, as children of light?

The answer comes down to “gifts” – how we acknowledge them, and how we use them.

THE HEART OF A SERVANT

About 15 years ago I was in San Antonio for business. One night, while walking home to my hotel after dinner I heard this question in my mind: What gift can I give to the one who gives everything? It startled me and made me pause. Then I heard it again: What gift can I give to the one who gives everything? I excitedly walked to my hotel, went to my room, pulled out my journal and waited for the answer to come: What gift can I give to the one who gives everything? But nothing came … God was silent and I was left alone with my thoughts.

I reflected on that question for quite some time, not knowing the answer. Then, one day I share this story with my friend, Deacon Joe Kennedy (Joe had served as a mentor and spiritual companion as I discerned my call to become a deacon). Joe encouraged me to reflect on how I have been gifted during my years of formation to become a deacon, and challenged me to do what I love to do … put my thoughts and feelings into a poem or lyrics to a song.

I took Deacon Joe’s challenge and penned these words:

What gift can I give to the one who gives everything?
What treasure do I possess that would glorify my king?
Not diamonds or emeralds, not rubies or gold
Those “treasures” are not enough to lay before your throne

Should I sing you a love song and flood you with praise
To prove that my love for you grows stronger every day?
No, you only want one thing; one gift is enough
You simply want all of me, and to abide with you in love

I give you my heart, the heart of a servant, Lord
I give you my joyfulness, my brokenness – everything I am
May I grow to know and love you, and serve the ones you love
I’ll give you a heart like yours: The heart of a servant

There is more to the song, but you get the gist. The chorus of this song (“I give you my heart …”) became my prayer on my day of ordination – to give God my heart in service to him and his people.

In our Second Reading today (EPH 3:2-3A, 5-6) we hear Paul speak of “the stewardship of God’s grace” that was given to Paul for the benefit of Christ’s followers. That statement from Paul is a reminder that we are all charged with being good stewards of God’s grace. To do this, we should take some time to reflect:

  • What gifts has God given me?
  • What gifts am I called to share with God, and with others?
  • How has God called me? Where is he leading me?
  • How will I cooperate with God to allow his wisdom shine in my life?

There are no quick, simple answers. Like my experience in San Antonio, we have to be patient and persistent in our discernment.

OPENING OUR TREASURES TO GOD

Today’s Gospel teaches us that the light of Christ extends farther then we could ever imagine. God wants to fill us with wisdom and mercy. He wants us to be good stewards of all that he gives us, and to generously share God’s gifts with others. For this to happen, we have to be like the Magi and “open our treasures” to God. We must:

  1. Let the “gold” we offer to God be our talents and efforts
  2. Let the “frankincense” we offer be our prayers and worship
  3. Let the “myrrh” we offer be our sufferings and sorrows, offered up to God

I encourage you to spend some time in prayer this week, and sit with this question:

What gift can I give to the one who gives everything?

And, today, as we receive the Lord again in Holy Communion, be conscious of the grace you are receiving through this sacrament that allows you to respond to whatever the Lord wants for you – and from you.

Be at peace, and know that you are loved!

Deacon Dan

Cultivating a Culture of Stewardship

Homily for the First Sunday of Advent
December 2, 2018

This Sunday marks the beginning of a new Liturgical Year in the Church. It also marks the beginning of the Season of Advent. As I thought about these two events, I remembered that my spiritual director would often ask me how I was going to use a particular liturgical season (Advent, Lent, etc.) to grow in relationship with God. How was I going to participate in the celebration of the season? What change did I want to see in my life as I worked to grow in holiness during that time?

I turned to today’s readings to reflect on the themes of participating, growing, and changing and how they applied to this season of Advent. I found our Second Reading to be particularly helpful in answering these questions.

Paul writes to the Thessalonians (1 THES3:12-4:2) to give them hope in their journey of faith. He sends them a blessing for the work they have been doing, and encourages them to grow even more. He tells them: “increase and abound in love for one another.” What Paul is telling them is:

  • By opening their hearts even more, the will learn to live and love more generously.
  • Their hearts will be strengthened and they will live a more joyful and holy life.

Today, I want to talk about how we, as a parish, can increase and abound; how we can live more generously; and how we can increase our love and care for each other. I have been asked to speak to you today about stewardship.

The Meaning of Stewardship

Growing up, I remember hearing my parents and other adults kidding that there were only three things required to be a good Catholic: Pay, Pray and Obey. To people of my parents’ generation, that was a humorous way of describing “stewardship” as they understood and experienced it: Give money to the Church, go to Mass each Sunday, and toe the “company line.”

I think you would agree that this is an underdeveloped understanding of what stewardship is really about. As we better understand it today, Stewardship is::

  • Growing in relationship with God (and God’s people);
  • Knowing and using our God-given gifts (our strengths) in ways that contribute to our own well-being, and the well-being of others;
  • Acknowledging that everything we have is a gift from God; and
  • Knowing that “to increase and abound in love” we have to allow ourselves to be transformed (to open our hearts and minds and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives)

This process of stewardship is transformative. It happens over time and helps us be grateful and joyful givers. 

Stewardship begins with a single thought: That everything we have is a gift from God. From that thought, we develop an “attitude of gratitude” which further guides us as we grow in love, understanding and generosity.

All Gifts Come from God

Do you believe that everything you have is a gift from God? This thought has been engrained in our minds for years, but if we aren’t paying attention, we may miss it. Think about what we pray every night before dinner, acknowledging our God-given gifts:

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts
Which we are about to receive from Thy bounty
Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Read it again — slowly — and think about what it says: God is the origin of all we have, God’s gifts are bountiful, and we are continually blessed through the love of Jesus, our Savior.

This is a simple prayer of gratitude that we can take for granted. But we can’t take stewardship for granted. If we are not intentional, prayerful and reflective about where our gifts come from and how we share those gifts, we may grow complacent and become apathetic about God’s gifts, thinking we don’t have to participate, grow or change.

God blesses us and calls us to share our gifts; to “increase and abound in love for one another” (in our parish community, and for all God’s people). That is what stewardship is all about.

Stewardship Committee

Father Pastorius has asked me to guide a group of parishioners who will focus on stewardship in our parish through the formation of a new Stewardship Committee.

  • The mission of the Stewardship Committee is: To cultivate a culture of stewardship that emphasizes prayer, participation and generosity in St. Joseph Parish.
  • The vision of the Stewardship Committee is: To help transform the life of our parish community by being joyful witnesses to the abundance of our God-given gifts.

Fostered by the work of this Committee, we want stewardship in our parish to be expressed by:

  1. Spending time with God in prayer, taking time every day to recognize the gifts God has given us, and being grateful for them. This moves us to reflection, asking God how he wants us to use the gifts he has given to us.
  • Sharing our talent, acknowledging and using the unique skills and talents and strengths God has given us so that together, we can do the work of Our Lord. It also means encouraging and inviting and welcoming others to use their talents to participate in the mission and ministry of our parish — and the greater CatholicChurch.
  • Generously giving our treasure, giving not in comparison with others, and not from our excess, but in proportion to all that God has given to us, with a generous and joyful heart.

What I have witnessed so far in my research of stewardship practices is that this process of cultivating a culture of stewardship can be truly transformational for a parish like St. Joe’s. And we are blessed to have great resources and support from the Archdiocese to strengthen and sustain our parish in the practice of stewardship.

We would like all parishioners to learn more about Stewardship, and to perhaps consider being part of the Stewardship Committee.

Next weekend, Mr. David Baranowski, Director of Stewardship Education for the Archdiocese will speak at each of the Masses about how we can transform our parish by focusing on our giftedness; how we can use our gifts and strengths together (now and in the future).

The evening of Monday, December 10, David will lead a workshop for St. Joseph parishioners focusing on how our “personal stewardship” can transform not only our own lives, but also how our “parish stewardship” can transform the life of our parish community.

This workshop which will be held in the church from 7:00 – 9:00 pm and is open to all parishioners.  During the workshop, we will also share more information about the work of the Stewardship Committee and how you can be a part of this new endeavor.

An Invitation to Reflective Action

One of the steps in “cultivating” anything (like a culture of stewardship) is to help prepare the soil. That is the purpose of my homily today – to help prepare our hearts and minds to accept the seed of stewardship in our parish.

As we begin this season of Advent, as we await the joyful coming of our Savior, let us prepare our hearts and minds to embrace the spirit of stewardship by reflecting on these questions:

  1. Do I see all thatI have as a gift from God?
  2. What is God calling me to do to increase my generosity?
  3. How can I become a better steward of God’s gifts and foster an attitude of gratitude within me, within my family, and within my parish community?

Blessings to you and yours for a joy-filled Advent and a Merry Christmas.

Deacon Dan