Take a Step
Sunday Homily for November 16, 2008
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (33A)
By Fr. Phil Bloom
Bottom line: Jesus invites us to take a step.
On his program "The Archbishop's Hour" a listener asked Archbishop Brunett how the current economic crisis would affect the Catholic Church. He responded with concern for the poor who be most affected, but he also put things in a broader perspective. He noted that some of the greatest giving to the Church happened during periods of recession - even during the Great Depression. "People will give," said Archbishop Brunett, "to what is important to them."
This has been born out by recent experience: People will find money for what is important to them. A few years ago, during an economic decline, Americans spent thirteen billion dollars for cosmetic surgery.* It is not a sin, but it was twice the amount spent on the entire American parochial school system during that same year.
This Sunday Jesus asks us to consider what is most important and to invest accordingly. He invites us to take a step. He gives the example of a man who received five Talents. With gratitude he put those Talents to work - and doubled them.
The famous American preacher, Norman Vincent Peale said, "Success has a price. It depends on my constant effort, my vehement desire to reach my full potential. In the same way I nourish my body, I have to keep nourishing my spirit. Instead of thinking of failures that could come, I am going to concentrate on the goals and ideals I wish to reach."**
We have a great example of this "can-do spirit" in our new president-elect. Whatever one thinks about his political ideas, you have to admire his "audacity." He did not get bogged down on the liabilities of his childhood - or that he had a funny name - or a darker complexion than the typical professional. No, he not only overcame obstacles, he used them as a source of strength. And in two months, for better or for worse, he will be the most powerful man on the planet.
Now few people can expect the same success as Barack Obama. But each can invest the talent given by God. No one wants to wind up like the guy who hid his Talent. Jesus has harsh words for him: wicked, foul, lazy, slothful, good-for-nothing, cowardly. It will never do to say: "I am too old." Or, "I am too tired." Or "I am too poor." No, all of us have something to offer: Gifts of time, abilities and financial resources.
Recently I helped a couple set up a family budget. After calculating their annual income and considering the needs for food, clothes, rent, schooling and dental bills, the question came up: What about tithing? Giving ten percent to God? Well, it turned out they could not give the full ten percent. I asked, "How about one or two percent?" They decided to set aside two percent at the beginning of each month and then to see if next year they could give two and a half or three percent - until they reach the biblical tithe.
I would like to ask you to consider the same. Please take a look at the chart on your pledge card, identify for your income level - and consider taking a step. Could you give one percent more this year? I ask you to give in a way that is intentional, planned and sacrificial. You know, no one accomplishes much unless he makes a plan. If I get up in the morning and just do whatever strikes me, I will waste a lot of time - my own and other people's. We grow by making commitments and keeping them. I ask you to make a pledge to your parish.
Giving to Holy Family Parish is the best investment you can make. It is here that you - and so many others - receive God's life through the sacraments. We are striving to bring Christ's love through service and religious education. I ask you to make a pledge to Holy Family. Grateful to God for your financial resources, abilities and time, invest in your parish. Take a step. God will bless your commitment: "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
*And it wasn't Cher who spent all that money. Studies show that a great number of people with very limited resources found funds to achieve what they couldn't - or wouldn't - with diet and exercise.
The figure of thirteen billion dollars is from 2002. It represents eleven million procedures - about one for every twenty-five Americans. I don't have a more recent statistic, but undoubtedly the amount expended has increased - as has the cost of our parochial school system. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops calculates that the 2004-2005 cost for our elementary schools was $7.57 billion. With that money we educated 1,842,918 children at a per pupil cost of $4,268. (Average tuition was $2,607. The difference is made up by generosity of parishioners - and friends of Catholic schools.) As the U.S.C.B. observes: "Based on the average public school per pupil cost of $8,019 Catholic elementary and secondary schools provide an almost $19.4 billion dollars a year savings for U.S. taxpayers."
From Mil Joyas de Sabiduria by P. Eliecer Sálesman, #394.