Stewardship of Treasure Sunday

From the Pastor…

Stewardship: Loving God with Our Time, Talent, and Treasure
“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
~Matthew 6:21

I remember my very first tithe occurred when I was approximately eight years of age.  My Father tried to motivate me and my brother to practice the piano by paying us 25cents for every hour practiced.  One day, he gave me two dollars for practicing, just before we left for Mass as a family.  When I went to church that day, the Pastor spoke about the basket that was in the Christmas crèche and encouraged children to leave a gift for the Christ child.  I remember thinking that I would rip one of my dollars in half and give it to Baby Jesus.  (Pretty enterprising…. don’t you think?)  However, when I approached the Christmas crèche, all I could focus on was the arms of the baby reaching out to me.  I remember kneeling down and putting my entire dollar in the basket.  It made me feel so good to give that gift to Baby Jesus.  As we began to walk to our car, it bothered me that I could have given him both dollars, so I ran back to the crèche and gave my all to Jesus.  I had such joy all day long. 

That was my first lesson in tithing, and throughout the years, I have come to learn that tithing, or giving 10% back to God via the Church, was important. I believe my Mother set the example. Mom always seemed to pay the bills.  My parents never took vacations, or bought extravagant cars, rather they worked hard to provide for their children.  One day while I was a sophomore in high school, I noticed my mother was paying some bills and it struck me that the first two checks she wrote, despite the stack of bills she had on the table, were for 1) the Church Offering Envelope; and 2) the Catholic School Tuition payment. I learned that day where my Mother’s priorities lay: God and our family. The habit she ingrained in me continued into college. Each month my mother would send me $100 in a card, always signed….”love you Mostest….Mama” 

I believe she always gave first to Jesus, and when I started to work in high school, and then small jobs during school breaks in college, I wanted to incorporate the lesson she taught me, namely, to give a portion to the Lord.  When I began to study the Scriptures in college Seminary, I learned about the biblical notion “to give your first fruits to the Lord.”  It seemed to me that it would be a significant spiritual goal to try to give a portion of my income to the Lord first.  In addition, I tried to make it a personal goal to work my way up to tithing; that is giving my first 10% to the Lord, and not what was left over.  I must say, it was very difficult to give up 10%, when finances were tight and the bills kept coming. However, in striving to be serious about my faith, I knew that authentic “tithing” also required me to trust that God would provide during the difficult times.  And He still does.  Tithing requires one to place their trust in God, who is never outdone in generosity.  I am always amazed how the Lord gives back a hundredfold.  I would like to invite you to try tithing in your own life.  Perhaps a little more background on this biblical mandate might be helpful.

What is a Tithe?
“According to Scripture, a tithe is a gift offered in support of the priests and priestly people—the Levites (cf. Num. 18:21). Not all Levites were priests... but the whole tribe of Levi was a priestly people. Today an equivalent might be all priests and those who serve the Church: religious sisters and brothers, missionaries and groups that serve the Kingdom of God.”  The word tithe means literally “ten,” and 10% constituted a full offering in the Bible. A tithe is also referred to as the “first fruits”: sacrificing to God the best we have to offer. In Old Testament times, this meant the best lambs or the best part of the harvest. Most of us work for money now, so the tangible fruits of our labor end up being figures in a checking account or stock holdings. The concept is the same.

A tithe serves two purposes. It supports the Church, and, more importantly, a tithe is a symbolic gesture that all we have belongs to God. By offering back the first 10% of our income to God through the Church, we literally show that we trust Him. “God’s true desire is to be generous with us, but even more, as a loving Father, He wants us to imitate Him in generous love.”  God the Father offered his “first fruit”—His Son—to us on the Cross, replacing the Old Testament sacrifices with His Son on the Cross. We imitate the Father’s love by offering the best we have to offer. 

Test GOD?
We know that Jesus told Satan in the beginning of Marks’ Gospel that we should not put the Lord to the test. Scripture shows one exception. “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, And try me in this, says the Lord of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?” -Malachi 3:10

The Lord wants us to trust Him in all things, and He knows that trusting him with our finances is difficult. God specifically asks us in this passage to do exactly that! He also promises that when you do, He will “pour down blessing upon you without measure.” If we can trust God with our finances, it becomes easier to trust Him in other things as well.  Do you remember the story of my $2 Christmas gift to the baby Jesus.  Later that afternoon, I happened to be outside playing and, lo and behold, I found a $20 bill folded up on the sidewalk.  While we should not tithe expecting material blessings, sometimes they occur. The greater lessons I have learned about tithing are detachment and trust. NONE of the money we receive as priests is our own; it comes from the generosity of our parishioners, so it should be easy to offer up the first 10% of it. Even when it is not easy, making that offering builds in our hearts a detachment from money, and a trust in God to provide.

A Spirituality of Stewardship
Tithing is a spiritual action. In a materialistic age, it reminds us that Jesus is Lord of our lives. But it also is a spiritual offering to God. There is a reason that the collection is symbolically carried up to the altar as part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and offered up with the bread and wine. Spiritually we should offer ourselves up - our time, talent and treasure - during the offertory of each Mass.  When stewardship is discussed in parishes, the three T’s mentioned are Time, Talent, and Treasure. But often people hear “just another talk about money.” Stewardship is the offering of our entire selves to God. We have a choice: to live self-willed lives or Christ-centered lives. God gives us all our time, talents and treasure; we should give back to him the first fruits of these gifts.

Stewardship is truly Spirituality.” A few weeks ago, I asked the parishioners to prayerfully review the Ministry Directory so you could make a personal commitment to build God’s Kingdom.  Quite frankly, I find no excuse whatsoever, when people do not commit to giving of their time and talent to build up God’s Kingdom.  So, what would it look like to give God 10% of your time to God? In a 24-hour day, that adds up to almost two and a half hours (2 hours, 24 minutes) of time given directly to God.    The time could be mental prayer, perhaps attending daily Mass, doing some spiritual reading, praying the rosary each day, and getting involved in at least one ministry of the Church.  Perhaps you are called to serve in one of our Compassionate Outreach Ministries, or assist during the Mass, or volunteer in one of our parish offices, or visit the elderly in nursing homes, or feed the hungry, and clothe the poor.   God does not just want our money – he wants our hearts. He wants us to show Him that we are in love with Him, and that He is in first place.

Tithing of our treasure, apart from giving God our talent, and perhaps more valuable, our time, is empty.  If you did not submit your Time/Talent Commitment Form at Mass recently, please go to our website, download the form, and mail/return it to the Rectory this week, or take a form from the book rack in the vestibule.  During this time of the year I ask our parishioners to prayerfully consider your gift of Treasure to the Lord.  Are you truly attempting to tithe in your life?  While most people find it difficult to immediately start giving 10% of their income to God, it is important to try to strive to make that an eventual goal.  A good gauge to start is by giving at least one hour’s wage to the Lord each week. After all, isn’t it the Lord that provides for your needs now. 

I am asking parishioners to make a sacrificial tithe to the Lord this year.  Remember the Scripture verse regarding tithing: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the Lord of hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?” -Malachi 3:10

As you make your annual Stewardship of Time/Talent/Treasure commitments, I ask you to reflect on the following questions?

Did you grow up in a tithing family or tithing parish? How do you think your upbringing might affect your attitude towards tithing?

Read Malachi 2: 6-10 and Proverbs 3:9-10.    How can you as a faithful Christian respond to these passages?

What is your current monthly income? What would 10% “off the top” of your paycheck be?

What is your hourly wage?  What would the first hour’s wage “off the top” of your paycheck be?

Reflect: Are you ready to start tithing next month if you are not already doing so? If not, what are your fears, doubts or concerns?

“The borrower is the slave of the lender.” (Prov. 22:7) Do you have debt? What kind? How much? Do you have a plan for debt payment?

Take a couple of hours and draw up a monthly budget for yourself or with your spouse if you are married. Plan to save for: an emergency fund, short term needs and long term needs. But always make a provision for God first. Allow Jesus Christ to be Lord of your finances!

What amount of the day do you currently give to God in prayer? How do you show Him that you love Him above all things?

What are some ways in which you might be able to share more of your gifts (talents) with the Church?

If you have not completed your Time/Talent Commitment form…what holds you back?  Are your priorities really in the right place ….for if you are too busy for the Lord….they are definitely in the wrong place.

With a loving and grateful heart,

Msgr. Marucci

 

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