Sunday, November 11, 2012

We Need to Give

Homily from the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year B

Before entering the seminary, I worked for a radio station.  And every year, our radio station hosted a week-long telethon to raise money for child abuse prevention.  It was hosted by our morning show DJs from the roof of a local supermarket.  Up they went Monday morning, and from the roof of this supermarket they broadcast their show from 6AM until 10PM everyday until they finally came down from the roof on Friday evening.  They lived and worked up there. They ate their meals up there. They slept in sleeping bags and tents up there. They even had a port-a-potty up there and a hose to take a shower with.

All week long, our morning show would interview people who were brought up to the roof on a cherry picker.  They interviewed victims of child abuse who had the courage to share gut-wrenching stories of suffering, and torment as well as stories of healing, recovery and triumph.

They also interviewed owners of local businesses would be brought up to the roof on a cherry picker and they’d present giant cardboard checks.  Huge amounts of money: $5,000, $10,000, $20,000.  Over the course of the week, the radio station would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for child abuse prevention.

One day, as we were sitting on the roof, we saw the cherry picker rise up over the crest of the roof, and on the cherry picker was our friend Lou who held in his hand a coffee can.  As soon as we saw Lou with this coffee can, we knew what was about to happen.  Because Lou was the director of South Bend's Center for the Homeless.

Lou stepped up the mic and said that the guests at the South Bend Center for the Homeless, the homeless themselves, had been listening to the broadcast.  They had heard the stories of abuse and how other people were donating money; and they wanted to make a donation too.  So they passed the coffee can around the homeless shelter and they gave what they had, and Lou said, “The guests at the South Bend Center for the Homeless are pleased to make this donation of $12.41.”

It was the biggest donation of all.

When I saw the incredible generosity of the guests of homeless shelter, I immediately thought of today’s Gospel.  And how the poor widow’s contribution of two small coins was, as Jesus put it, “more than all the rest.”  Like the poor widow, the homeless, who literally have next to nothing, gave anyway.

Why?  What difference did did the widow’s two small coins make compared to the vast wealth of the temple?  What difference did $12.41 make compared to the hundreds of thousands that was collected for child abuse prevention?

The difference was the difference it made in the heart of the giver.  The widow in the Gospel and the homeless in South Bend needed to give because the greatest desire of the human heart is to give.  And mankind only fully discovers its true identity when it makes a gift of self.

We’re wired this way: to give.  It’s written into our DNA.  We’re created in the image and likeness of a God who Himself is the most generous giver of all.  As sons and daughters of a gracious God, its in our genes to imitate the generosity of our abundantly generous Father.
Those are the two reasons why we are here today in this Church:  First, because God wishes to give us a gift, the gift of Himself.  And we can’t get that gift anywhere but from this altar.

And second, to give ourselves back to Him as a thank you.  To give a portion of our time back to Him in worship for His greater glory.  And to give a portion of our talents to each other for the building up of His Kingdom.

This is a huge parish; the biggest in the diocese.  10,000 families; 3,300 families.  When you come to church on Sunday and are with this big crowd, it’s pretty easy to feel overwhelmed.  But this parish family becomes more intimate to the extent that you get involved.  And there are so many opportunities for you to get involved.

In your pew, you’ll notice a card with a list of opportunities to get involved in our parish family.  We have liturgical ministries, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, men’s fellowships like Rekindle the Fire, the Knights of Columbus, women’s fellowships like WINGS, evangelization opportunities like RCIA, Religious Ed, Christ Renews HIs Parish, and opportunities to help the youth of our parish with Life Teen, Edge, our school and more.

I want to invite you to jump into one of these.  Ask the Lord, what gifts have you given me?  What are you asking me to share?  Where do you want me to serve?

And we’re here to help you discern where God is calling you to serve this parish family.  Not sure what you’d like to be involved in?  You’ll notice on the other side of the card a list where you can check off what your particular interests and talents are  Do you enjoy working with children or youth?  Do you have a talent for working outside or with your hands?  Do you have technological or marketing skills?  What are they and let us know.

This is a remarkable and vibrant parish.  And it is so because so many people get involved.  Imagine what our parish family would be if every family, if every individual got involved.  Either for a one-time project or something of a longer commitment.  As I said, 10,000 members.  3,300 families.  3 priests.  You do the math.  It takes a lot of hands, hearts, minds, and prayer to make this place whirr.  This place is what it is only because Christ is its head and each of us is an active member of his body.

As I said, we’ve come here to St. Vincent’s because God wishes to give us Himself and because we wish to give of ourselves.  As we saw with the widow in the Gospel and the guests of the homeless shelter, everyone has something to give.  And all of us need to give; its our human nature.

You are here today so you can bless this parish family with the gifts God has given to you.  To use your gifts and talents for His glory and for the benefit of your brothers and sisters in Christ who need what you have.

Take a moment to fill out this card and drop it off at the box at the information center.  There are also booklets in the gathering space with descriptions of the various ministries.  If you’d like to take one home and look it over, and pray about how the Lord is asking you to serve and turn your card in later, that’s fine.

Ask the Lord.  How do you want me to serve?  What do you want me to do?  How can I help this parish family?

We look forward to all that God has given to you which you are going to share with us.

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