Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Fr. Pete Iorio
Stewardship Sunday, September 28-29, 2019 – All Masses
I have something to tell you. Money is not a dirty word. Neither is Stewardship. Jesus talked about both.
– 16 of the 38 parables talked about money and possessions. – 1 out of 10 Gospel verses deal directly with the subject of money. – Over 2,000 verses in the bible mention money and possessions.
Why then do most Christians today worry about individual sexual morality more than about their use of money and possessions and their care of the poor who are blessed according to the beatitudes? I rarely hear sins confessed of failing to give money to the church or the poor or of being indifferent to the poor.
The readings today are just some of those important and challenging Biblical teachings about money.
The prophet Amos is always on side of poor and is against the priests who are always was on side of the rich.
In the Gospel parable, Abraham is a stand in for God. It is a story to make a point, a very important point. There is a huge chasm between rich and the poor. They cannot understand one another because they live in different worlds.
Consider the rich man – he is not bad. Jesus does not say that he made money through sinful ways. His problem is that he is totally unaware, doesn’t have a clue about the needs of Lazarus and people like him. This is the temptation when we are too comfortable. We can live in an isolated world. We don’t care about anyone else. We can become so smug and express an attitude of entitlement: I earned it. I deserve it. I can do with it what I want. This is the opposite attitude of faith which says: we know that we do not deserve anything because every single thing is a gift from God.
This parable is the great reversal. The parable is set up to mistrust the way things look. Things are never like they appear. All of us have to be prepared to be surprised. The way we look at it is not the way God looks at it. Our goal is to look at everything through God’s eyes and to imitate the actions of God.
During these next four Sundays, we are focusing on Stewardship. Now don’t think of this as the sermon on the “amount.” I am certainly not telling you how much to give of your time, talent and treasure. I am inviting all of us to reflect on all that God has given us… simple things like air, food, freedom, love, the beauty of Tennessee, family, friends, a job, ability to go to school and learn, ability in sports or other talents… Are we truly grateful for these things? In the spiritual life, we know that we are not grateful enough if we complain all the time. Opening ourselves up in gratitude to God for everything, allows more grace to flow in us and through us.
The next question today is: are you willing to give away in love that which you have received? This attitude of giving and not greedily clinging to it or grasping for more assures that you will have holy joy. When all members of a family or a parish or a community share this attitude and practice, the Kingdom of God can be felt in a beautiful way and attract others to it. In contrast to what the rich man in the parable of Jesus did, we must be willing to see the needs of our neighbor, Lazarus and help him if we are able.
I have been here as your pastor for just over two months and I have experienced your generosity to me. This says to me that the Body of Christ at Our Lady of Fatima is generous and living the faith and I thank you wholeheartedly for welcoming me into this wonderful parish. May we continue to grow together in love by giving ourselves as gifts to one another. Generosity breeds generosity. As you give generously to me, so I am grateful, and I desire to give generously to you. I hope you all can see that in those who are my close collaborators, Fr. Andres, the deacons, the parish staff – all wonderful people whom I see give generously to you all in their ministries. As pastor, I try to foster gratitude and generosity which are fruits of God’s love.
Recently, I celebrated a teaching Mass and two things stand out about every Mass in relation to stewardship. We can refer to Mass as Eucharist. This is a Greek word that means “thanksgiving.” In every Mass, or eucharistic celebration, gratitude to God is included in our prayers. God gives us the bread and the wine and transforms them into His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. God is the giver and God is the transformer of the gift which nourishes us and transforms us. As we receive the gift of God Himself in the Body and Blood of Christ, so we are to give our own selves as gifts. I think of it as the divine flow. God gives; I receive, and then I give to others. I give of my time. I give of my talent. And I also give of my treasure/my money.
Another way we refer to Mass is a sacrifice. The Latin word sacrificere means to “make holy.” When we make a sacrifice, we give up something we cherish and symbolically, God makes it holy, transforms the sacrificial gift into something for God’s purposes. Jesus is the sacrifice who gave His life that He cherished for the life of the world.
During this stewardship appeal, I am asking you to pray about making a sacrificial gift of time, talent and also of treasure to Our Lady of Fatima. I ask you to pray about it after you pray in thanksgiving for all your gifts. I believe that the main reason for giving is NOT as we commonly think: I give because there is a need out there. This parable can make us give out of fear of punishment. I don’t believe that is true. What I believe is the great reversal: I give because there is a need in here, inside me, in the divine core of my being to give, to imitate God who is love and constantly gives. Remember the Law of The Gift: our own life will increase in the measure that we give it away.