Sunday, November 8, 2015

'Generous Jimmy' Not the Answer! (Covenant of One III)

BC’s richest man 
lives in our parish. Just up the hill, in fact. And he’s a generous man—in a few weeks his house will be shining with Christmas lights for all to enjoy.

Jimmy Pattison is a serious Christian, but he’s not a Catholic. But think if he was! Our money problems would be solved. The rest of you could close your purses and sit on your wallets. Generous Jimmy could look after all our needs, starting with the latest leaks in the roof. We’d be on easy street at Christ the Redeemer.

Or would we?

Far from being on easy street, we’d be on a path to ruin and within a few years our parish would be spiritually weak, lacking in joy and energy,

Because Christians need to give. We don’t just give to needs, we need to give.

Our Covenant of One is based on solid biblical principles about the Christian life. We need to give our hearts to God in prayer. We need to give our time to others in service. And we need to give a share of our income to the Church and other charities.

Time, talent and treasure—these sum up everything we possess. And everything we have comes from God. On that simple fact rests the whole notion of Christian stewardship. We give what we ourselves received as a gift from God.

This Sunday we wrap up the three Sundays during which we’ve talked about the next steps in our relationship with God—small steps, really, but important ones. Are we ready to offer God a simple covenant of one, a promise of an extra hour of prayer, and extra hour of service and an hour of wages?

And if those three commitments are too much, are we ready to offer one of them? An extra hour of prayer means less than ten minutes a day—but in my first Covenant of One homily, I offered a few ideas for just an extra ten minutes a week, since it’s all about trying rather than just ticking off boxes.

An hour of wages, for a household with an income of $80,000, is a weekly contribution of about $40 That would compare with a devout Protestant’s 10 per cent tithe of $154! The hour’s wages we suggest is something closer to 3 per cent.

Most priests hate to preach about money, and most parishioners hate it when priests preach about money. So maybe I should not preach about money—except that Jesus does it, St. Paul does it, even the Old Testament prophets talk about it.

What Jesus says in today’s Gospel is almost all we need to know about sacrificial giving. God is honoured not by amounts but by attitudes. Whether you are rich or poor, your contribution to the parish should require some sacrifice; giving that has become too much of a routine is spiritually fruitless, even if it does help the parish pay its bills.

The first reading also tells us something that’s truly important: God is not outdone in generosity. The faithfulness of the widow of Zarephath is a model of generosity, and the reward she is given comes to her from God. Like the widow in the Gospel with her famous mite, this woman gives what she has and it pleases God greatly.

The Word of God today presents spiritual truths that are especially wonderful for a parish like ours. These readings put all of us an equal footing—the richest and the poorest, the parishioners and the priests are all equally able to please God by their sacrificial gifts; indeed, the poor have an edge, because no-one is suggesting that the rich should contribute all they have to live on. There’s not enough room for them to move into the rectory, large though it is.

Our parish has many generous stewards of God’s gifts—people who pray, people who serve, and people who donate with great generosity. But the call to stewardship is not for some; it’s for all. Because God’s covenant is offered to each one of us.

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