Stewards Find Hope in the Cross

Do you ever think about how you experience the cross of Jesus Christ? Do you ever think about the power of that cross in your daily life? Is the cross even relevant to your life? It is to stewards of the Lord, who recognize the hope Christ brings through the gift of his cross. They acknowledge that for them, the cross is their only hope.

Being good stewards of our life in Christ is not easy, but to embrace the cross is not only countercultural, it seems absurd. Then again, we cannot avoid what Jesus said to his disciples: “If you wish to come after me you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me. For if you wish to save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake you will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

The cross is more readily embraced by people of faith who suffer, are poor, broken, or are the victims of such things as violence, oppression or natural disasters. They see the cross as the hope that no matter what has happened to them, God will see them through. The Father did it for Jesus who hung on the cross, so surely their sufferings will be redeemed by Jesus’ sufferings.

Where people possess much material abundance, comfort and leisure, how¬ever, there is a tendency to de-emphasize the cross, to draw away from it. They can’t touch it or feel it so they wish to “save” their lives by looking to other things: power, wealth, fame, relevance, being the center of attention. What is preached about the cross from the pulpit sounds good, but in reality something more tan-gible is desired.

Christ emptied himself completely in humble obedience, allowing himself to suffer and die out of compassion for the world (Philippians 2:6-11).

Good stewards follow his example and work day-to-day to empty themselves and live com-passionately; most noticeably by sharing their lives with others.

Just last week we experienced the Easter triduum, the climax of our liturgical year. As we continue in this Easter Season, let us ask the Holy Spirit for an even deeper awareness of the cross in our lives.

Let us find hope in the cross and pray that as we embrace it, we too will experience in a special way the joy of new life in the risen Lord.

The Experience of Easter

We are an Easter people. The joy of Easter is celebrated not only during the liturgical season we call Easter. It is celebrated every day of the year. The Mass is the Paschal Mystery, and every time it is celebrated, we participate in the sacrifice, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. As St. Paul teaches, we die with Christ and rise with Him in the Holy Spirit. We are transformed into new creations. We are renewed.

Stewards of God’s abundant gifts hold dear the promise of renewal and pledge themselves to the work of reconciliation, healing and proclamation of the risen Lord. For Christian stewards, each day is a new dawn for living in the light of Christ. There is much about dying and rising with Christ that we do not know; much about the Paschal Mystery we do not understand. But stewards of God’s love are always open to learning more; to being called out of their ignorance and into the light of faith which comes with an ever-deeper understanding of its peace and joy.

Easter is a good time to reflect on how we experience the joy of Christ’s peace. It is also a time to ask ourselves how we can experience the gift of Easter each day of our lives.

On a personal note, I want to thank everyone who has been praying for my sister and brother-in-law, Sally & David Frey. They have been on the Prayer List, the intention of Masses, and on personal prayer lists as well.

Dave had been sick for 15 years, and critically ill for the last year. Two weeks ago my sister told me that they were bringing him home to die and she needed me with her. [I was gone from the office for 10 days, and I truly appreciate your patience and understanding.]

We prayed for God to be merciful and accept David into his loving care as quickly as possible. He passed away surrounded by his loving family just two hours after returning home.

I was so grateful that I was able to be there as a support for my sister and the extended family, but most of all for Dave.

I kept reminding myself and saying to the family that death is what we as Christians live for. It is through dying that we are born to eternal life. Dave is the lucky one. He has achieved his goal and now he is one of the angels in God’s presence.

It is fitting that this happened just before I had to prepare this Easter bulletin. I am reminded on this day that Jesus lived that he would die. During his time on earth he was fully present to those around him as he continues to be every day and especially when we celebrate the Eucharist.

I pray that each and every one of us keep this in our minds each and every day. We are born with unique gifts and talents that are intended to be shared with abundance as we prepare ourselves for Eternal Life.

Have a Blessed Easter!

Stewardship: Jesus Sets the Example

As we move through Lent and approach Holy Week, we might think about the Lord’s Passion as a goodbye story, almost as if it were a closure. It begins with a Passover meal, where there is a discussion of what might happen in the future for the disciples.

However, listening to Jesus must have been very uncomfortable for some of those gathered. One of the disciples learned that he would betray Jesus; Peter heard that he would deny him. These predictions might remind us of what it is to be human – that we make mistakes and that we are limited

This meal is followed by Jesus’ rejection at the hands of the authorities – and his humiliation as he is whipped and mocked. He then dies on the cross.

Jesus is at the mercy of the worst kind of humiliation. How does he respond? With anger or indignation? No. He is humble until the end.

He shows great respect for authority but also remains true to himself. We see this when he goes off to pray on his own: he ‘withdraws’. He needs to be rooted in that relationship with his Father.

What kind of a saviour is Jesus? How does it feel to have a saviour who was mocked and abused and humbled himself to death on a cross? How counter-cultural is Jesus, and how is he still counter-cultural for Christian stewards today?

As we continue through our Lenten journey, let us think about how we live as Jesus’ followers, as stewards of his Gospel message. How often do I empty myself, even a small amount for others?

Jesus sets us an example of how to live. Even at his death he was living his ministry by reaching out to the women at the foot of the cross. We are all called to live that ministry too – we are accountable for how we live our lives.

Our faith has been passed to us and faith is a huge gift. How we live in response to that gift is left to each of us, but we are called to reflect God’s love.

Mother Teresa once commented that each of the people we meet is Jesus in disguise. Try to see Jesus in just one person each day this month. At the end of each day, try and reflect on how that was. Was the person in whom you saw Jesus someone you find easy to love?

This article was written by Teresa Keogh from the Diocese of Portsmouth, U.K. Other great dynamic articles can be found at CatholicStewardship.com.

Almsgiving: An Expression of Gratitude

When we look at the three traditional “disciplines” of Lent, prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we know that almsgiving gets the least attention. Yet, the Bible places emphasis firmly on almsgiving:

Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness … It is better to give alms than to store up gold; for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin. Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life (Tobit 12:8-9).
Almsgiving is simply an expression of our gratitude for all that God has given us, and a realization that as a member of a community of faith, it is never just about “me and God.” It is fundamental to being a good steward of our community. For disciples of the Lord, almsgiving means much more than simply throwing a little change in the poor box. It is an attitude of generosity. It challenges us to examine how we are using our time, abilities, and money to better the lives of those around us. It urges us to share what we have been given by God with others in love and justice. It reminds us that Jesus blesses those who seek to be “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3).

Almsgiving opens our hearts to the realization that God blesses us through those we serve. It is here that we find the great mystery of Christian service. We see God in the life of Jesus, and we see Jesus in all those who are in need of our care. Look around, see those who are in need, and ask God to take away those obstacles and distractions that keep us from being generous with them. In turn, we will receive God’s blessing.

Consider one or more of these creative almsgiving ideas for the remainder of this Lenten season:

• Show an act of kindness to some¬one you don’t speak to often.

• Visit an elderly person who may be lonely.

• Reflect on the regular contributions you make to the parish. Could you do more?

• Perform an extra chore for your parents one day each week during Lent.

• Go through your closet and find some clothes in good shape to give away to other children who are in need of clothes.

• Write a letter or create a card for someone who is sick or might be lonely.

• Buy some cans of food to give to a local food bank or soup kitchen.

• Donate diapers, formula, baby clothing, baby furniture or maternity clothing to a local crisis pregnancy center.

Accept the Grace of Reconciliation

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is ALWAYS a beautiful thing. I had a friend recently who hadn’t been to confession in about 40 years. I’m sure you know someone like that…maybe yourself? He decided in his heart that it was time to go, but he feared being judged or chastised. I assured him that God would be thrilled to see him return to grace.

So, he corralled his fears and trepidation and showed up at the confessional one Saturday. Rather than scolding him for his absence, the priest asked “Why now? What brought you back to the Sacrament?” We all have our reasons why we stay away and we all have our reasons why we return. If it’s been awhile, why not now? Why not this Lent? God is patiently waiting for you to kneel before Him and say “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”

Our parish is hosting a Communal Lenten Penance Service on Tuesday, March 3 at 6:30 p.m. As a community, we will share a short prayer service, an examination of conscience, and then each penitent will have the opportunity to meet privately with a confessor. (About 10 priests will be on hand for the evening.)

If you would rather go to confession in the traditional manner, we will continue to offer confessions every Saturday in Lent at 8:00 a.m.

Your other option is to attend a Communal Penance Service at a neighboring parish. (See list at far right.)

EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE:

I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD: YOU SHALL NOT HAVE STRANGE GODS BEFORE ME. Have I treated people, events or things as more important than God?

YOU SHALL NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD YOUR GOD IN VAIN. Have my words, actively or passively, put down God, the Church, or people?

REMEMBER TO KEEP HOLY THE LORD’S DAY. Do I go to Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation? Do I avoid, when possible, work that impedes worship to God, joy for the Lord’s Day, and proper relaxation of mind and body? Do I look for ways to spend time with family or in service on Sunday?

HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER. Do I show my parents due respect? Do I seek to maintain good communication with my parents where possible? Do I criticize them for lacking skills I think they should have?

YOU SHALL NOT KILL. Have I harmed another through physical, verbal or emotional means, including gossip or manipulation of any kind?

YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY. Have I respected the physical and sexual dignity of others and of myself?

YOU SHALL NOT STEAL. Have I taken or wasted time or resources that belonged to another?

YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST YOUR NEIGHBOR. Have I gossiped, told lies, or embellished stories at the expense of others?

YOU SHALL NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S SPOUSE. Have I honored my spouse with my full affection and exclusive love?

YOU SHALL NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S GOODS. Am I content with my own means and needs, or do I compare myself to others unnecessarily?

Lent is Just Around the Corner

The Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 18. That’s just 3 days from now! So now is an appropriate time to think about your Lenten Journey.

You will notice on the back page of this publication, I have printed all the liturgies, devotions and events that are being offered at St. Mary’s this Lenten Season.

Please take the time to read it over. Think about the various opportunities made available to you. Maybe you’ve never spent time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. You can sign up for an specific hour each week, or you can just drop in at any time the Chapel is open. Jesus is there in the Blessed Sacrament, just waiting for your visit. It’s like stopping in to see your best friend. You’re friends whether or not you see each other often, but isn’t it amazing when you get together and share a little of your precious time?

When was the last time you came to the Stations of the Cross? Or received the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

Catholics tend to think that Lent is all about giving up. “What are you giving up for Lent this year?” Soda, coffee, cigarettes, candy? There’s nothing wrong with making a sacrifice during these 40 days. After all, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us. But what if, this year, right now, you look at Lent in a different way. Instead of “Sacrificial Living”, you think about “Sacrificial Giving”.

Sacrificial Giving is what some people call Giving ‘Til It Hurts. I don’t know that we are expected to hurt ourselves, but I do believe we are expected to go out of our comfort zone.

The principles of Stewardship challenge you to accept God’s gifts gratefully, cherish them and attend them in a responsible manner, share them in justice and love with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.

I would like to take that a step further and encourage you to give outside your comfort zone. Usually we give what is comfortable for us. Sure, we write a check each week to support the church, but could we dig a little deeper into our purses, pockets, and wallets. Could we give a little more generously to our parish, the church outside our parish (Annual Catholic Appeal of our Diocese), the world church, or any other charity of our choice?

This goes for time as well. Try to spend just a little more time reaching out to someone. It can be in a formal program, or it can just be by following the Corporal Works of Mercy (visit the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry…) Offer to pick up the newspaper or the mail for your neighbor who doesn’t get around well. How about picking up a loaf of bread for that neighbor next time you go to the store?

The Lenten Season would be an appropriate time to mentally review the promises you made with God in your Covenant. Did you resolve to add just a few minutes a day to your prayer time? (Or establish a prayer time.) Pray for a deeper understanding of the Stewardship Way of Life.

Were you planning to take advantage of more Adult Education opportunities? Read Catholic books and literature? Hopefully you picked up a copy of Rediscover Catholicism a few months ago and have begun to read the book.

The parish made the book available to you to help in your Faith Journey and to help make your relationship with God stronger. You are encouraged to attend the Book Study (whether or not you have read the book) that will begin on Sunday night, March 1. (We need an RSVP to make dinner arrangements.)

Whatever you choose to do to observe Lent this year, don’t let it slip by unnoticed. Step outside your comfort zone and return your gifts to God with increase.

It’s Not Too Late to Commit to a Life in Jesus Christ

January is traditionally the time for New Year’s resolutions. It’s an ideal time to take stock, reassess and recommit to a life lived for and in Jesus Christ. Here are a few suggestions for the important areas of our faith life:

Stewardship of Prayer: Nothing is more important than cultivating a closer, deeper relationship with God. Make a new commitment to a time each day to listen to God’s voice.

Stewardship of Family: How often in our busy lives does time with family get neglected? Resolve to find a special time with each family member each week. Make sure that family meals are celebrated frequently. Plan a special family outing once or twice a month, and go to Mass together. Resolve that when your spouse or child speak, you will look at them and truly listen.

Stewardship of Health: Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Without good health, we lack the energy to serve the Lord well. Resolve to make that doctor or dentist appointment. Make one healthy change in your eating habits. Add a few minutes of extra exercise to each day’s routine.

Stewardship of Possessions: Want less. Live more simply. Do you own your possessions, or do they own you? Challenge yourself to sacrifice something you like but that you know another person needs more than you.

Stewardship of Mind: Resolve to read something regularly that enhances your faith life. Resolve to learn more about your faith and especially Catholic social teaching.

Stewardship of the Parish Family: Offer your service to the liturgy or a ministry of your parish in the New Year. Enrich your parish and your parish experience by becoming involved.

Stewardship of Money: Take charge of your budget and your checkbook. Reprioritize your financial goals to ensure that the Lord is coming first in the expenditure of your wealth. Plan your spending and don’t spend reactively or impulsively.

Stewardship of Work: Do your best at your chosen profession. Be honest and faithful. Resolve to find a class or other forum that will strengthen your knowledge and expertise. Bring a prayerful attitude to your job.

Stewardship of Neighbor: Be aware of those around you, whether it be your co-workers, fellow parishioners, neighbors, restaurant workers or store employees. Everyone needs a smile and Christian kindness.

Stewardship of the Poor: Resolve to interact with the poor in some specific way this year. Resolve to choose a time and place to minister to the poor in some way. Bring them into your prayer life as well.