Wow…we’re 4 days into February already, with Ash Wednesday (and Lent) only a week and a half away. Our brand new 2018 resolves to better our spiritual lives and our commitments to care more for the “others” in our lives, are now, hopefully, firmly in place… and that we are already benefiting from the grace and peace that emanate from them. Regular reading of the Holy Word of God in our Bibles, should help us maintain the course we have laid out for improved lives of discipleship. Every life has, and will continue to have, challenges.
Today’s readings challenge us to avoid Job’s pessimistic and cynical view of life as a chain of pain and suffering, and to accept life with hope and optimism as being a precious gift from God…using our lives to do good for others and spending our time, talents, and the treasure of our lives for others, just as Jesus did and just as St. Paul did. They have modeled for us the embrace of generous stewardship, to be true disciples.
In fact, today’s Gospel clearly teaches us that true discipleship does mean getting involved in giving selfless service to others. During the Sabbath day, Jesus took part in synagogue worship, taught with authority, exorcised a demon, healed Simon’s mother-in-law and, after sundown, “cured many who were sick with various diseases, and drove out many demons.” Thus, Jesus spent himself, and most of his time, ministering to the needs of others, giving healing, forgiveness and a new beginning to many. Yet, Jesus rose early the next morning and went off to a deserted place to pray, in order to assess his work before God his Father and to recharge his spiritual batteries. This was not anything “supernatural”, above and beyond our capabilities. It is a model for us to imitate. Are you still fine-tuning your self-improvement plan? Today’s scripture readings provide some guidance.
Last week’s Gospel and Homily touched on the reality of Satan and the Demonic and our need to be aware of their “wickedness and snares”…to be alert to the deadly deceptions of the devil. Today we again hear of Jesus casting out a demon. So in all of our faith strengthening endeavors, let us be certain to build-in actions and prayer time to directly confront those weak areas where we are so often tempted. In that regard there is absolutely no action that is more effective than regular Confession. It is the most impenetrable “armor” we can access. Focus on that during the upcoming Lenten season will reap great spiritual reward and the accompanying peace of sanctifying grace.
We talk about discipleship often, because it is to that life that our Savior continually beckons us. I made brief mention in last weeks “Corner” that we have not spent a much time this year reflecting on our stewardship of treasure renewal. Our renewal “Commitment Weekend” was somewhat low-key and I must apologize as I was away at a funeral of a college classmate back in Michigan. No one likes to talk about financial or money matters (myself included) but it is a very important part of our Church life. We tend to forget that support of Christ’s Church is one of the precepts of the Catholic Church, but it is just that. No where does it say “how much” but Our Lord, using the example of the elderly widow, taught us that it is the sacrifice that we make in our giving that is pleasing to God.
The statistical data I made mention of last week, unfortunately shines a light on the fact that a great deal of (certainly not all) our new parishioners, have been slow to get connected with the Offertory giving process. The number of our parishioner families has, praise be to God, grown tremendously, way more than doubled, but contributions per family have been negatively impacted. Bear in mind, there are numerous new families that have been very generous, sacrificially giving in accord with their ability. The most disturbing statistic as mentioned, is the percent of family givers who are in the “less than $2 a week” category which has grown exponentially…from 35% of a smaller parish population, up to 47% of a much larger parish population. You can also check today’s bulletin to see that in the month of January, we received 21% less in Offertory than we did a year ago.
All the reports on the economy relate that it is the strongest and most robust in years. I know there are many that are in very difficult situations, however, statistics show that there are many more who could give something, and certainly more than $2 a week. If you find yourself slipping into a degree of apathy in this regard, I ask you to pray over, and discuss with family, making a reasonable increase, with at least a touch of sacrifice, for your New Year’s resolution to our Lord and Savior. The new Church is magnificent, but it has increased our mortgage responsibility and requires the support of all of us to pay it off, on schedule, and allow for the growth we still need going forward for a new education center.
Yours in a call to equal sacrifice,