Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fr. Chuck's Column for Sunday, March 16

Recently I was flipping through the channels on our rectory TV and by happenstance came across an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine. This children’s show from Britain has been running since the early 80’s. It is very colorful, and I paused flipping channels for a while to watch it.

One of the things that impressed me is that all the engines were concerned to please the owner of the railroad, Sir Topham Hatt. They wanted to do a good job to make Sir Topham Hatt (STH) happy. At first this put me off, since STH looks like nothing less than the characterization of the worst sort of industrialist-capitalist oppressor of the working classes. But as I watched, this soon faded, and what came to the fore was the genuine concern and desire of the engines to fulfill their responsibilities, do a good job, be reliable for all those who depended on them, and to please their owner. And that is really rather charming.

All of us, I would argue, have in us an innate desire to be responsible, to do well, to discharge our duties faithfully, to give a positive return for our life. This desire to be responsible is not just, nor even primarily, about our particular career or work, but rather our whole sense of what our life is about. Are we just leeches that only take in life, or do we somehow make a positive contribution that makes things better than what we found them?  I think this urge is strong in children. I love seeing the kids participate in the Catholic Relief Services packing of thousands of meals for Africa that we have done the last couple years here. Children don’t just want to be recipients and drains on the family. They have a desire to know that they contribute something to the wellbeing of the family. Children may resist doing chores around the house, but it is really important for them to know that they are contributors to the family and not just a burden. Kids who have it too easy really lose out, and eventually lose their sense of being a contributor. That is so important to a sense of self-worth.

The same is also true for adults. We have all been blessed with wonderful gifts: time, talent, treasures, supportive relationships and many others. Not least among these is the wonderful gift of Faith that makes life full of meaning, of purpose, of sense. These gifts are not given to us just for us to enjoy, just to receive, as if we are drains that gifts flow into but nothing ever comes back.

Rather we have been entrusted with these gifts to build up the common good. As St. Peter in his First letter states: As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (4:10) 

The call to service is not a burden, but rather an opportunity to become who we were created to be. We find ourselves, and our worth, not in focusing on our own selves and our own needs, but in service to others. That is what good stewards do.

This week and next you will be hearing about Christian Stewardship, the call from God to use the gifts you have been blessed with to build up the Kingdom of God. That takes place, of course, in many ways. Specifically we are going to be talking about stewardship in the parish. We are blessed with an active, dynamic, parish. I believe we do a pretty fair job of helping people to discover Christ in each other, to worship, and to move forward together on the way to the Kingdom of God. It really is a big job, one that requires the active participation of ALL of us. It claims our time, our talent, and our treasure. We have been called to serve, and that call is truly precious. It gives us meaning and purpose and direction.

I hope that you will take time to reflect on your role as a steward of God’s varied gifts. Lent is a great time to do that. Open your mind and your heart to the message in the homilies this week and next. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we approach our annual Pledge Weekend next weekend. Like Thomas the Tank Engine, you will be glad you did!

God Bless,

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