Today is our annual Stewardship Commitment Sunday. Every year we take stock of our personal relationship to God by considering the manifold blessings He pours upon us and how we share those blessings. God gives us an abundance of Time, Talent, and Treasure. Do we return a portion to him in grateful praise? Do we make gifts of our Time in prayer, our talent in charitable service, and our treasure in financial gifts to others? How we spend our time and money is the real indicator of how we are seeking happiness in life. Show me your day planner and your visa account and I will show you what you value in life. Today we look at all God has given us and plan gifts in return.
All time, all energy, and all wealth are God’s, and it all returns to Him, sooner or later. Why wait until “later,” on the day of our death, when we will have to surrender everything? I heard of a priest who died with a million dollars in the bank, which he willed to Mother Teresa’s sisters. But how much more wonderful to have given that money personally while he was still alive! Most of us will die regretting the time we did not spend with the people we loved. Let’s examine our souls this Sunday so we don’t die regretting anything.
Time is Prayer
They say time is money. Certainly time is the most precious resource we have. We Americans, in fact, and especially we San Franciscans, seem to have a lot more money than time. We are always strapped for time. But God gives us 70 or 80 years of time on this earth to prepare for heaven. He gives us 168 hours a week. What do we do with that time? If we don’t spend any of it with God in prayer, we cannot be very healthy or happy. Prayer opens me up to God’s blessings, and makes me capable of loving others. But God is patient. He doesn’t pout or complain if we miss Mass on Sunday, or don’t show up for our weekly holy hour, or neglect the Rosary, or never open his Bible. He does not nag us, so we must be mature in planning our time with him. After communion, I will lead us in a practical exercise—filling out a prayer planning form—the first of our three stewardship commitments.
Talent: Are we building up the Church?
We also consider “talent:” what strengths has God given us, and how do we use these talents to support others? Most of the talents we share with others will be outside the parish—helping our children and spouses, friends and colleagues. But for Catholics the parish is also a vital community. A Catholic is happiest when he or she commits some degree of service to the local parish. Social and service groups like the Knights of Columbus, Filipino, Chinese, or Latino clubs, our Mother’s Club and Young Adults fellowship, our Legion of Mary: these give us scope to exercise our talents right in our home parish. Teaching catechism to our children, serving on a parish advisory board, volunteering in our school or preschool, or serving the homeless are other ways to help build up the community.
In the Gospel Jesus points out that the Pharisees preach well but they don’t put their own good intentions into practice. “They lay up heavy burdens but will not lift a finger to help others carry them.” To be Catholic, to be Christian, to be human is to lift a finger to help others carry life’s burdens. It is simply good stewardship. Jesus says the Pharisees do not “practice what they preach.” I’m sure they had good intentions, but somehow, they didn’t act on those intentions. They were not faithful to their own beliefs. In the words of my favorite animated movie, Horton Hears a Who, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant; an elephant’s faithful 100 percent.” I’d like to be a little more like Horton and a little less like the Pharisees. Jesus calls us to walk with each other, to work with each other. Christian stewardship is walking with each other on the long road to heaven, helping each other to be strong on this journey.
Allow Our Blessed Mother to guide your prayer and your charitable service. She appeared many times to simple folk, most recently to three shepherd children in Portugal, always with one goal: to lead them in prayer so as to be more charitable to others. “Pray the rosary,” she said, “so that people will not lose their souls.” Let’s make a quick prayer to her as we plan our gifts.
Note: Below is the prayer planning form (Stewardship of Time Commitment Form) that we used at Mass