As I do each year around this time, I am speaking at all the Masses with regard to the parish finances. To be clear, this weekend is more than just a mere reporting of numbers. Rather, it is an opportunity to encourage all of you to respond to the Lord as generously as possible. Remember, your financial support to the parish is not given to me or the staff. We are just stewards of the gift you give. As I often say, the parish is yours and the gifts you give are what help this Christian community to thrive. As stewards of the gifts given us by God, we all have a responsibility as followers of Christ to give back to the Lord with the same enthusiasm and generosity with which Zacchaeus gives in this weekend’s Gospel.
I must admit there is a challenge when speaking about the parish finances in isolation as it tends to put an emphasis on specific needs and gifts. The way to address this is to be reminded that the Church exists to fulfill a mission, and our mission in this parish is clear. We are called to 1) Serve God and Others; 2) Unite Cultures; 3) Make Disciples; 4) Share the Gospel. Notice that none of these bullets speak about money. That is because our financial gifts are meant to serve the mission of our parish, not become the mission. And the mission is only successful in proportion to the generosity of our parishioners. The staff and I are committed first and foremost to advancing the mission of Christ to evangelize the world by evangelizing the people within our own parish borders.
One of the questions that can be raised at this time has to do with value; what do we as Christians value? I was once asked a question along these lines by a spiritual director. Of course, I told him my Faith was most valuable to me. He then asked me to develop a chart of where I spent my money and free time. He said that where most of my money was spent after living expenses, and what I did with my free time, is what I truly value the most. This exercise opened my eyes because charitable giving was almost non-existent compared to other areas where I was spending money. It was at that point he reminded me that the Biblical standard was a tithe. The deeper point that he made, however, was that the things I truly valued in life where were a noticeable portion of my time and money went.
As Catholics, each one of us is asked to pray about his or her financial gift and make a commitment to that gift in his or her regular budget. In your prayerful discernment, be honest in asking yourself what is of value to you. As you can see in the financial charts included in this weekend’s bulletin, like any modern institution we have our regular income and expenses. For those with a secular worldview, the value of this parish would be based on the “profit margin” in these charts. However, the value of our parish is not based on our finances, but on the strength of conviction in our community. I thank you for valuing this parish and ask that you continue to express your love for this parish through your Stewardship of the gifts God has bestowed on you. In short, today I am asking you to take ownership of the mission.
As part of your taking ownership, I am asking each of you to review your current gift and, where possible, to take-a-step. Taking-a-step means making a commitment to add a small amount to your current weekly gift, and then give that increased amount every week throughout the year. In this regard, I am asking that each family increase the gift proportionally to the blessings you have received. It is clear in today’s Gospel that Zacchaeus experienced Christ in a powerful way. At the heart of our mission is to have a place where the Zacchaeus of today can experience Christ, that is, to receive the Good News. Our parish is that place. Today, thanks be to God, we have a beautiful church building and campus where we can gather on a regular basis, and it is certainly a place where Zacchaeus can encounter Christ. Thank you for being part of this great mission!