A Lenten Stewardship Reflection: Compassion

A central theme in the Gospel of Luke and a very good one for Lenten meditation is the notion of compassion. More than any other Gospel, Luke reveals the compassionate nature of Jesus Christ. Jesus said it emphatically and without mincing his words: “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36, New Jerusalem Bible). The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which taken together mean “to suffer with.” Compassion asks us to enter into another’s pain, to share in their suffering, to feel their brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish. For Jesus, however, compassion was not just a feeling. It translated itself into action. Throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus heals and cares for the downtrodden, the poor and oppressed. Jesus showed his followers that compassion is inherent to discipleship. He did not reach down and lift the poor up from above either. He became poor. He suffered with the poor. He chooses pain, rejection, persecution, and death rather than the path of “upward mobility” toward power, authority, influence, and wealth. It is this “downward mobility” that led to his own passion, death and subsequent resurrection and redemption for all.

Jesus’ path of downward mobility differs from the common notion today that compassion means helping those less fortunate than we are. It is a particularly privileged notion to think that if we volunteer in a soup kitchen or donate money to help others, we have been compassionate. To be clear, these actions are important and valuable ways of serving others. But when we are able to maintain our distance or stay in a place “above” those we serve, such acts easily become acts of pity, rather than compassion. This is the problem with the idea of serving “those less fortunate.”  We are somehow “more” and “they” are somehow “less.” We have all the power. “They” have none.

Genuine compassion, as embodied by Jesus, runs counter to our culture’s concept. Christ’s compassion is a call to suffer “along with” those who are powerless. Compassion is at the heart of the Christian stewards’ life. It is an expression of God’s love for us and our love for God and each other. Perhaps during this Lenten season we can place compassion front and center in our spiritual lives. What better time than the Lenten season to consider a radical reorientation toward others. And what better time than Lent to discover the compassion Jesus calls us to embrace.

Good Stewards Learn to Develop God’s Gifts

By Rev. Joseph D. Creedon, pastor emeritus, Christ the King Parish, Providence, Rhode Island. This excerpt is seventh in a series based on his current book.

Good Stewards Learn to Develop God’s Gifts God has blessed each of us with many gifts and our task is to discover, acknowledge and develop those gifts. Some of our gifts we discover ourselves; other gifts have to be pointed out by others. One of life’s greatest challenges involves discovering and developing all of our God-given gifts. Parents, siblings, teachers, coaches, scout leaders and friends play an important role in this journey. Once we know we have a gift, we have to believe in the gift and commit ourselves to developing it. We have to work on our gifts and have the discipline to hone them to perfection.

Blessed John Cardinal Newman once said, “Nothing would be done at all if one waited until one could do it so well that no one could find fault with it.” Many people are afraid to test their gifts. Fear of failure, it seems, is pervasive. We are not born with a fear of failure. Fear grows on us. Fear wears many disguises – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of ridicule, fear of not belonging, fear of looking foolish – to name but a few of fear’s disguises. All of fear’s disguises lead to stagnant energy. Fear always brings with it inertia and inertia always leads to stagnation. No one develops their gifts responsibly without risk-taking, hard work and overcoming fear.

Allow me to offer an example. Do you remember what it was like to learn how to ride a bicycle? We start off with a tricycle and for a while that is enough but soon we want more. We want a bicycle and the day comes when we get our first bicycle but our joy quickly fades when we realize that the bicycle comes with training wheels. So instead of going from three wheels to two wheels we go backwards to four wheels. Finally the fateful day comes when the training wheels are taken off. A person we thought loved us, usually a mother or a father, puts us on the bicycle, puts one hand on the back of the seat and the other on the handlebar, tells us we can do it and pushes us off to fend for ourselves. The result is always the same – we fall to the ground. Then the person we thought loved us picks us up and repeats the process. Eventually we get the hang of it but not before we have fallen and picked ourselves up more often than we choose to remember. The gift of balance is key to being able to ride a bicycle; the process of discovering that gift is repeated many times in our lives.

Life is a series of failures that morph into successes sometimes without our realizing it or knowing how it happens but it does. We had to learn how to be brothers and sisters, we had to learn how to be husbands and wives, and we had to learn how to be friends and neighbors. We need to learn how to be good stewards of the many gifts God has given us; to discover them, cherish them and not be afraid to develop them.

Stewardship Saint of the Month: Saint Joseph

Next to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph is the most honored saint in the Catholic Church for being the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. His traditional feast day is March 19. Joseph’s life is depicted in the gospels, particularly in Matthew and Luke. He was born in Bethlehem and is described as being a descendant of King David. Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but was pregnant with the Christ child before Joseph took her into his home. According to Jewish law at the time, Mary could have been stoned to death if she was believed to have been unfaithful to her betrothed. An angel of the Lord told Joseph to take Mary into his home, that the child was conceived through the Holy Spirit, and that his name would be Jesus. After Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, in yet another dream, Joseph was told to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt and remain there until Herod’s slaughter of newborns had come to an end with Herod’s own death. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to the region of Galilee and settled in Nazareth where Joseph taught his craft of carpentry to Jesus. Joseph is last mentioned in the Gospels when, on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he and Mary frantically searched for the lost Jesus in Jerusalem, and found him in the Temple (Luke 2:42–52).

Saint Joseph was declared patron saint and protector of the universal Church by Pope Pius IX at the close of the First Vatican Council in 1870. He is also considered a spiritual model for families and Christian teaching frequently stresses his patience, persistence, and hard work as admirable qualities Christians should reflect upon and embrace.

He is the patron saint of fathers, foster fathers, husbands, the unborn, working people in general and social justice. Saint Joseph is the patron saint of several countries including Canada, China, Korea, Mexico and Peru. Many cities, towns, and other locations are named after Saint Joseph as well; and it has been noted that the Spanish form of Saint Joseph, San Jose, is the most common place name in the world.

PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH FOR WORKERS

Joseph, by the work of your hands and the sweat of your brow,
you supported Jesus and Mary,
and had the Son of God as your fellow worker.

Teach me to work as you did, with patience and perseverance,

for God and for those whom God has given me to support.
Teach me to see in my fellow workers the Christ who desires to be in them,
that I may always be charitable and forbearing towards all.

Grant me to look upon work with the eyes of faith,
so that I shall recognize in it my share in God’s own creative activity
and in Christ’s work of our redemption, and so take pride in it.

When it is pleasant and productive, remind me to give thanks to God for it.
And when it is burdensome, teach me to offer it to God,
in reparation for my sins and the sins of the world. Amen.

 

 

Forty Days, Forty Ways to Exercise Good Stewardship of Lent and Easter

Are you looking for ideas to help you with your Lenten experience? Here are 40 ideas to fill the 40 days of Lent and the beginning of the Easter season.

  1. Attempt a more intentional prayer life – start a habit in the morning and before bedtime.
  2. Attend Mass on Ash Wednesday. Wear your ashes out into the world as a witness to our faith. Mass for Ash Wednesday will be celebrated at 8 a.m. and 12:10 p.m. in English.  A bilingual Mass will be offered at 5:30 p.m. and a service in Spanish will follow at 7 p.m.
  3. Make a prayer basket at home – slips of paper or construction paper hearts (invite kids to participate) writing names or intentions that each person around the table picks out before each meal.
  4. Attend a weekday Mass. Our parish celebrates Mass Monday through Friday at 8 a.m.
  5. Pray the rosary.
  6. Make a point of experiencing the sacrament of reconciliation at the beginning and end of Lent. Consider inviting someone who’s been away from the sacrament to join you. Our parish offers the Sacrament at 8 a.m. on Saturdays.  We will have a Communal Penance Service on Friday, April 5 at 7 p.m.
  7. Pray for someone with whom you are out of touch.  Reconcile with someone you’ve hurt or aren’t speaking to.
  8. Attend a Lenten Bible Study with Father Ceaser on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. in the Star of the Sea Center; invite others to join you.
  9. Give up meat on Fridays but don’t substitute lobster – make fasting something that is truly sacrificial.
  10. Resolve to stop engaging in rumors, gossip, and negative chatter that devalues others.
  11. Begin and end each week with an e-mail thanking someone for all that they do.
  12. Be sure to say grace at any restaurant you frequent (don’t dodge making the Sign of the Cross either).
  13. Buy a cup of coffee for someone living on the street but not until you learn their name and exchange in some conversation.
  14. Pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Our Blessed Sacrament Chapel is open M-F 8:30-5, and until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.
  15. Pick up a brown grocery bag in the back of the church and contribute to our St. Mary’s Parish Pantry by providing basic food staples listed on the bag.
  16. Invite someone who’s been away from the church to attend Mass with you.
  17. Make a gift to a charitable cause – make it a sacrificial gift.
  18. Make a commitment to the “40 Days for Life” to support the unborn.
  19. Thank a bishop, priest or member of a religious congregation for their public witness – invite them out for coffee or a meal.
  20. Learn about the life of a saint, perhaps our parish saint.
  21. Visit someone who’s alone.
  22. Reflect on the most pressing challenges confronting our Church and pray for a Spirit-filled response.
  23. Pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis.
  24. Attend the Stations of the Cross. We will pray the Stations of the Cross in English on Fridays after the 8 a.m. Mass (except on April 1) and at the School for families on Fridays at 6 p.m.
  25. Find out if there is a person participating in your parish’s RCIA program and send a note of encouragement.
  26. Find out how our diocese is involved in refugee resettlement and see how you can help.
  27. Attend our Good Friday Services. Good Friday Stations of the Cross at 12 noon, Seven Last Words of Christ at 2 p.m. and the Good Friday Liturgy at 3 p.m.
  28. Make time for family activities that are faith-related such as reading the Bible as a family.
  29. Keep a journal during Lent about your spiritual highs/lows.
  30. Make a playlist of spiritual music that you enjoy and share it with a friend.
  31. Embrace periods of silence in each day.
  32. Offer to be part of the church preparation crew or cleanup crew for the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday – Good Friday – Holy Saturday) liturgies.
  33. Commit to a parish ministry or try a different ministry than the one you in which you are currently engaged.
  34. Cut your media consumption to open time for prayer or scripture reading. Start and end each day free from the influence of the media.
  35. Attend a Friday fish fry at a local parish with friends or coworkers. It’s not the healthiest meal, but a fun Catholic tradition to join others and help you abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. Or, you can attend Family Stations of the Cross at School on the Fridays in Lent and participate in a Meatless Pot Luck Dinner.
  36. Find a form of Lenten fast appropriate for your age and state of health.
  37. Buy a book of daily spiritual reflections, keep it by your bed and read it upon rising or retiring or both.
  38. Dedicate a portion of your time during Lent to serve others such as working at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
  39. Participate in Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) Rice Bowl collection. Visit crsricebowl.org to watch videos of the people and communities you support through your Lenten gifts to CRS Rice Bowl.
  40. Invite someone you know who will be alone to Easter Sunday dinner.