Each according to his own ability

As I sit down now to write this “Corner”, I have just returned to the rectory from our Monday evening Mass, where the concise Gospel reading from Luke 21:1-4 told of the poor widow putting in two small coins for her offering to the temple treasury. We all know this parable quite well, as a parallel account is given in Mark’s Gospel 12:41-44. Jesus has a point to make, and he makes it very clearly. He noted that there were many rich people contributing large sums and that they were doing so from their abundance, with not much sacrifice involved. Jesus highlights the poor widow’s paltry contribution of two small coins, worth a penny, but He praises her gift as being far more pleasing to Him than the much more valuable gifts of the wealthy donors. The key value indicator is the amount of sacrifice involved in making our gift.

The theme we chose for the New Church Building Capital Campaign, initiated some six years ago, incorporated this equalizing concept with the words: “Equal Sacrifice…not Equal Giving.” In fact, one of the five precepts of the Catholic Church, found in the Catechism, is for all Catholics to provide support to Christ’s Church. “Obligatory… positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities…of the Church with the intent…to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor (CCC 2041).” By way of review, here are those Five Precepts of the Church:

1. “You Shall Attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.”
2. “You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”
3. “You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.”
4. “You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.”
5. “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church… Each according to his own ability.”

Our 2018 Annual Stewardship of Treasure Renewal process will take place next weekend. If you have not already, you will receive materials this week to assist you in making your pledge. As you participate in our pledge renewal process this year, I would respectfully ask that you prayerfully consider the possibility of increasing your pledge by a minimum of 1% this year. Strive to be like that poor widow…making a prudent sacrifice that will draw great praise from our Savior.

I have mentioned frequently, with great thanks, that our parishioner family count has risen significantly…more than doubling since my arrival some 9 ½ years ago…and fast closing in on 800 families. That is fantastic news…and for that, I (and we) have a lot for which to be thankful. The consistent generosity of our committed givers has been remarkable. My heartfelt thanks go out to all you loyal supporters. However…back when we were around 300 families, the percentage of our families that were contributing was considerably higher than today.

I am not a big “numbers person”, but when taking a moment to analyze the parishioner support of our Church, I have found that the key factor in assessing the vibrancy of a parish… is the percentage of registered parish families that are regular contributors (regardless of the amount given). No matter where you go, the higher the percentage…the higher the financial success, and coincidently, the Spiritual persona of the parish. My family knew what it was like, way back then, to have very little to draw from for support of the Church. But simply being small but consistent givers, was fulfilling spiritually and an excellent example for our children. For, if everyone simply gave something (certainly not contributing “all one has to live on” like the poor widow), but just something from our scarcity…then all would be well, having confidence in the admiration and praise of Christ coming your way.

As you might imagine, the most disconcerting thing for me is to witness the great growth in the number of parishioners, yet also witness a drop in the percentage of those that contribute in accord with that Church Precept #5. Here is a quick peak at some of the “numbers” we would like to improve on. As of the end of August, there were 211 (or 28% of our families) who gave nothing. That’s an increase of 6% in the number of “non-givers” from just two years ago. While I am sure there are many in that group that genuinely were unable to contribute, I am just as certain that there are many who could afford to make some small sacrificial pledge. Please pray over making a small pledge this year.

In closing I would simply ask that all of us, with this year’s Stewardship of Treasure Renewal, seriously take our level of support (and the sacrifice it will entail) to prayer this week. If already giving, let us strive to take a small step forward and increase by a at least a percentage point And…if we have not yet pledged…strive to give something… and strive to take that first sacrificial step, no matter the amount. For, as promised by Our Lord… our generosity will indeed come back to us…pressed down and overflowing.

This Advent, let us grow together in Christ and in the joy of generosity, and be watchful and prepared.