Lent is a unique time of year when our hearts are disposed to the goodness of God. It is a time when we recognize the generosity of God in the gift of His Son. It is this openness to the Grace of God that has sustained the Church in every age. There is no doubt in my mind that God has a plan for salvation and that plan is lived out in the Church. From Her foundation by Jesus Christ, the Church exists for human persons as the vehicle for salvation.
The danger in seeing the Church as the activity of God can leave believers in a passive state in which they wait for that activity, rather than being proactive in sharing in the mission God has set for His people. Many Catholics tend to be passive in their approach to the Church. Yet the most prolific periods of Church history have been when God advanced the Gospel through the members of the Church who were open to Him. God’s generosity demands a response from those who profess Him as Lord. In other words, God is not an independent being Who does everything without our help. Rather, God stirs up those who believe in Him to become His activity in this world.
While the Catholic Church is truly universal and has reached every corner of the earth, She is also very near in Her presence through the local parish. The activity of God is only as strong as the activity and generosity found in a local parish. In this regard, human beings must cooperate with the Grace of God to advance the mission of the Church, which is always ordered to the salvation of souls. The model parish can best be understood when reading the Acts of the Apostles. Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, the community of believers saw the Hand of God working through them to bring more and more people to Christ.
In the background of the Acts of the Apostles are many stories of material and financial support contributing to the mission. So many Catholics today do not see the connection between such support and the advancement of the mission to the point where their charitable giving is minimal. As a community of believers, we must always see the Hand of God at work in our midst, and do our utmost to allow His activity to flourish. Like no other period in history, that flourishing depends on financial strength. Everything we do today comes with a price tag and, to meet the mounting costs of a local parish, every believer should be praying about his or her sacrificial gift to God. When every believer does his or her part, the mission of God advances.
Like St. Paul notes in the First Letter to the Corinthians, I preach the Gospel free of charge. No fee is ever set or an amount mandated when it comes to the sharing of the Good News. For those who have nothing to give, the Gospel is still preached to that person. For those who have been blessed and have much to give, the Gospel will still be preached to you free of charge. The one thing I have learned over the years is that those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ never count the cost – they just respond to the Lord with generosity.
I realize that no appeal or pitch to increase giving will have an effect on those far from Christ. That is the reason I preach the Good News free of charge. My primary concern is the salvation of the souls that live within the borders of this parish. Those who draw near to Him have a whole new perspective on existence and see with the eyes of Faith how God works through them. In other words, as I have often said, a converted heart is a generous heart. If God is very much a part of my life, and if my relationship to Jesus is personal and intimate, no one has to prod me to give to Him because I give freely and totally to the One Who Loves me.
This week you may have received a note in the mail from me. As I said last weekend, pray about your support to our parish. Discuss it as a family. Consider the blessings you have received and Make a Generous Return to God. One thing I have found about those who have an intimate relationship with Christ is that their return to Him is planned, proportionate, and made with no strings attached. Whether you will make an increase or not, please return the included response card indicating your giving plan to our parish. As always, I thank you for your presence in our parish and for the generosity that continues to make Blessed Sacrament the best parish in the diocese. Be assured of my prayers for you and your family.