Spirituality of Stewardship and Tithing
PASTOR’S HOMILY: RENEWAL OF STEWARDSHIP 2018
I. In today’s Gospel, Jesus summons His hearers to return to God’s original plan for creation. We hear of this plan in the first reading from the book of Genesis. God made man and woman in His image and likeness, and asked that together they take care of all He has created. They were to be stewards, not really owning the Garden of Paradise, but rather using it in accordance with God’s set plan and purpose. Of course, we know that because of the wiles of the serpent and Adam and Eve’s desire to be like God, to be masters of their own destinies, they were banished from the Garden. The letter to the Hebrews attests to Jesus’ ultimate giving of Himself, being made “a little less than the angels for a while” by taking on our human nature, and in that humanity experiencing suffering and death and triumphing over these ancient foes, showing us that true freedom is obtained by submitting to the Father’s Will for us.
II. These readings are perfect for the spirituality I am sharing with you today. Through this month of October, my prayer is that all of us adopt — or renew ourselves in — the spirit of Stewardship, the spirit of tithing. We haven’t talked about it from the pulpit for a few years, although Stewardship language is always part of our collection report in the bulletin, and newly registered families receive a lot of info about tithing. With all the new young families registering in our school and becoming part of parish life, I believe now is the time to once again preach about this special spirituality. Next weekend we will hear about the stewardship of treasure. Then, we will renew ourselves in the stewardship of time and talent over the two weekends following. In God’s providence, this call to renewal in our approach to giving back to God comes at a very important time in our parish’s history; I have spoken to you of our need to raise our collections and donations in general. If we all live lives as good stewards, we will have what we need to pay our bills and debts; God is never outdone in generosity. More importantly, the Catholic who lives stewardship and tithing is living a spirituality, a life-changing way of walking with God through life, and that is what makes it so important. The aim of tithing is to secure not the gift, but the giver— for God!
III. Those committed to be stewards recall the story of Adam and Eve in Paradise, and recognize the fact that all that we have does not absolutely belong to us in the strict sense. Rather, it is entrusted to us by the Creator so it can be cultivated, so that it all grows to the greater glory of God. Throughout Scripture, over and over again, there are reminders that we are called to be stewards of God’s gifts. Simply put, stewardship is about how we use God’s gifts. Stewardship gives us the foundation for a deeper faith. It recognizes that God has given me all good gifts, and lets me use 90% for any good and noble purpose, but expects the first and best 10% back for His honor and glory and our neighbor’s good. Our commitment to funding Ekenywa (the project which provides clean water to villages in Kenya) will be a tangible sign of our using what God has given us for our neighbor’s good. If we do what God asks, He blesses us and our efforts, it’s as simple as that. If we stumble along left to our own devices, we fail.
IV. Being a good steward means to set priorities out of our first fruits. And so, the first thing we should do with our gift of time is to pray. The first thing we should do with our talents is to serve God and others. The first thing we should do with our treasure is to give it back to God’s Church. I can tell you as one who has lived stewardship for many years, most of my priesthood, that when you decide to give God the first portion of time, talent and treasure, it will at first seem difficult, but soon becomes second nature and even easy. What we have left over is often more than enough to take care of our own needs. Putting God first in our lives by practicing stewardship deepens our faith in a way we never dreamed possible.
V. The Pharisees and scribes, over time, forgot the simple plan God had in the book of Genesis. In the same way, we often forget putting God first. As Jesus called the Pharisees and scribes to soften their hearts, and listen to what God has to say with the openness of a little child, so he is calling us to be open to the message we will hear over the next few weeks. In preparation, this week I invite you to look for the blessings or gifts in your life. Write them down and give thanks to God for His faithfulness. I also ask you to pick up, take home and read the small FAQ pamphlet about tithing and the small booklet which helps us see the spiritual basis for stewardship. Read them and pray over them. And then, ask God to speak to you, His beloved child, and inspire you how you can be a better steward of His gifts to bring you closer to the one vocation we all share, the call to holiness.