A Note from our Pastor
A NOTE FROM OUR PASTOR
My dear family of St. Matthew!
Here is Part 2 of a two-part series that I began last week regarding stewardship — God calls us to be good stewards of what He has given to each one of us in different measure, in different combinations of treasure (financial gifts), talents, and time. You know that about the only constant in life is change. So the way we live our vocation as Christian Catholics is a bit different than it was in the early church, when the church was just beginning, but when it was also living closer to the source of life eternal, more immediately connected to the witnesses who ate and drank with the risen Jesus after He had risen from the dead. Now listen, even though life has changed somewhat since back then, we can still learn some very important truths and practices that don’t change, in other words, the unchanging, underlying values and principles that reflect the eternal law of the love of God. As recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, the “community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common…. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the Apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Thus Joseph, also named by the Apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the Apostles” (see Acts 4, 32-37). What are the underlying values represented so clearly here in this example of Joseph-Barnabas? First, our possessions are OURS to dispose of! God doesn’t take away what He has given by force but rather encourages us by good use of our freedom to become free of attachment to possessions. I assume Joseph-Barnabas still had a place to stay, or, if not, he was ready to become a missionary along with the Apostles and depend on the goodness of others as he travelled the world sharing the Word of God, sharing the new, risen life of Jesus alive in our midst. But you see here a sense of detachment from his possessions that is clearly expressed in an act of sacrifice that came from Joseph-Barnabas’ free choice.
So at Mass, when the priest says, after the Offertory once the gifts of bread and wine and the monetary donations (the first and sometimes second collections) have been presented, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father”, what does this mean? My sacrifice includes my life surrendered to Jesus, which should be a living and loving sacrifice wholeheartedly, freely giving my life to Jesus as His priest. Does it always happen? Sometimes no, but I hope most of the time, yes. And what is “your sacrifice”? Well, it will include everything you give to God, your hopes, dreams, struggles, prayers, pains, joys, etc., AND ALSO YOUR MONETARY GIFT! You see, the Sunday collection comes in the middle of Mass, and it’s not a mistake that it’s there, nor is it an afterthought, nor an expression of the “greediness” of the church or the priest. You know, in ages past, the people would bring sheep and goats, heifers and pigeons and lambs for sacrifice, or their first fruits, grains, breads, etc. Today, your act of worship is more “green” than bloodred, but it is an INTEGRAL part of your worship to God, how YOU respond to His goodness and grace in your life, and how YOU say THANKS TO GOD! Instead of the sacrifices of the Old Testament, we offer our lives in union with Jesus, the true Lamb of God, and our donation to our collections is an INTEGRAL part of the Mass, of YOUR SACRIFICE!
Week after week you can see in the bulletin published how your Sunday donations match up to what we need according to our budget. And, in one sense, these weeks pass by with their costs and expenses, and it doesn’t actually matter at all who is pastor here: these are bills to keep this place open and functioning! Period. On average per week for this fiscal year (which goes from July 1, 2018, until June 30, 2019), we have been in the red $714.68 – again, that’s on average per week of the first 40 weeks of this current fiscal year. But, in terms of a total amount, we are in the red as of April 7, 2019, according to our budget $28,587.11. What does that translate into? Well, that would be a little over one whole month’s payment of health insurance for our full-time employees (see last week’s bulletin for actual, hard numbers in dollars). Where do I make up this difference? (By the way, there isn’t a money tree growing on our property, I checked!) And this is according to our BUDGET, which is usually bare bones and does NOT cover much of the extra costs that pop up unexpectedly in life, as we all know so well, in other words, there isn’t built into our budget much, if any, of a cushion! …And then the boiler goes! …Or the roof needs a major overhaul! …Or the washing machine breaks down! …Or there is more snow and cold than predicted! …Or we experience the 50-year flood! …Or… on and on and on…. You get the drift, right?! Heads of households have to manage headaches, and the bigger the “household,” guess what? Yes! The bigger the headaches!! Remember, I am not a fan of speaking about money. But I also very much dislike (actually, hate) living in the red. So which do I dislike/hate more? Well, here I am, writing and speaking about money!
St. John Vianney, the patron saint of pastors and parish priests, himself a marvelous pastor focused on the truly important things for himself and for his flock, said: “The eyes of the world see no further than this life. But the eyes of the Christian see deep into eternity.” My fellow Christians, my dear brothers and sisters, let us keep St. John Vianney’s words ALWAYS before us and ALWAYS live them! Let’s keep our eyes focused like a laser beam on the important things, focused on seeing deep into eternity!
Life on this planet sometimes necessitates, drives and demands what we must do. So please take all of what I have shared with you here to prayer, and let me know in our Sunday collection how you respond! Ultimately, it is a response to God, not to me, of thanksgiving for all He has done for you in your lives, and what He still promises to do in drawing us up into participation in His eternal life. Let me conclude by saying: THANK YOU ALL for taking care of the family of St. Matthew! Shalom-peace and joy to you and your entire family, too! Christ is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Mary, Mother of Life, pray for us!
Focused on the important things in life, and in the living, loving Hearts of Jesus and Mary, your Pastor,