November: A Month to Focus on Gratitude

November brings raking leaves, mid-term exams, plenty of football, and the beginning of our Christmas plans. But for those of us in the U.S., November’s highlight is that great national holiday, Thanksgiving. It’s wonderful to have a day to call attention to the need for gratitude, but this holiday also reminds the Christian steward that every day should include thanksgiving because gratitude is essential to discipleship.

One year when I was the family’s host for Thanksgiving, I found short scripture passages on gratitude. I made place cards for each family member and on the inside of the “tent”, wrote one of the passages. Instead of formal grace, each person read their passage and then said one thing for which they were grateful. I was worried about doing this, because, although everyone in the family was born and raised Catholic, not everyone in my family was still practicing their faith.

I also knew that it would take a lot longer than saying grace, but in the end, everyone was openly moved by the experience. Don’t be afraid to evangelize when you have an opportunity. You never know who is ready to hear the Good News.

Feeling a deep appreciation for the giftedness of our lives can’t be con¬fined to one holiday when we spend a few minutes around a laden table remembering our many blessings. Neither can gratitude become a rote response.

Gratitude is good for our spiritual lives in so many ways. It reminds us of our neediness before the Lord, without whom we have nothing. The mere daily act of focusing on our blessings makes us more mindful, more present to God’s mystery and gifts, and more aware of the needs of others around us. Gratitude is best achieved by daily, focused attention. So perhaps a good exercise for November would be to write down, each day, some things for which we are truly grateful. Your list will no doubt include people – a teacher who inspired you, a coach who believed in you, an aunt who made you feel special, an employer who mentored you. Your notes might include simple things – the aroma of freshly ground coffee, a lunch invitation that brightened your day, a phone call that brought a smile. Focus on things you sometimes take for granted – the warm home in which you live, the sunshine that peeked through a cloudy day, the bright redness of a leaf on the lawn, the faithful presence of your spouse.

And during this month of thanks, remember to give thanks to the risen Lord:

Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one an¬other, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:15-17).

Financial Stewardship

Last week, I published a copy of our annual report. It included an End-of-Fiscal-Year (7/1/14-6/30/15) Profit & Loss report of actual income and expenses and the Budget for this current Fiscal Year (7/1/15-6/30/16). Additional copies are available on the pamphlet rack in the vestibule if you forgot to pick up a bulletin last week.

As you could see, it is a very close budget. The Finance Council was very conservative when working on it, both in the anticipated income and the expenses.

In a perfect world, our weekly offering (Plate, Envelope & On-Line Giving) would cover our Ordinary Expenses. We fall short by about $1,800 per week. This is currently made up in part by the monthly Parish Advancement collection. Even with that added in, we are $750 short/week.

I understand (intellectually and personally) that it is difficult to give more than you are currently budgeted to give. But if you came to God and said you had a special request, would you expect Him to say that he had only budgeted to help you twice this year and this would now make three times you’d asked for help?

The God in whom we place our hope and trust is loving, merciful, and above all, generous. Giving to your parish helps support the mission of the church and ultimately better prepare you for your eternal life

So, back to the budget. Of course, our biggest expense is the cost of employees. We have six full time and six part time staff. We also pay professional musicians at most of our liturgies. All benefits are dictated by the Diocese.

The next largest expense category is the Diocesan tax. This is 13-1/2% of our prior year’s income that is paid to the Diocese on a monthly basis to help with their operating expenses. We do not get to choose whether or not to pay or how much. To clarify, the monthly Diocesan tax that is collected from all parishes helps cover the cost of the Diocesan operating budget. The Annual Catholic Appeal is used for program costs.

Our Religious Education programs are reflected on the last two lines of the budget because they are “Extraordinary Income”. The budget for Religious Education personnel is reflected in Salaries, but the program costs (books, materials, retreat days) is paid through donations and tuition

But it’s not all about money. The Religious Ed program would gladly accept help with sewing Angel costumes for the Christmas play. Also needed is a team willing to help set up for CCD on Sunday mornings and special occasions. We’re also looking for a techie to help with Power Points, sound, and videos a few times a year.

As in years past, I would like to invite you to sponsor (in all or in part) the cost of Ministry and Program supplies for Mass (missalettes, wine, hosts). Last year we spent $2,120 for altar wine, $2,200 for hosts, and $2,865 to have missalettes and music hymnals in the pews. We don’t anticipate an increase.

Additionally, we would welcome any donations to the Music Ministry. Besides the cost of musicians, we also periodically need to purchase new equipment, music licenses, or music for special occasions.

Stewardship operates solely on Restricted Donations rather than as a budget item. We most recently are funding seven parishioners to attend the International Catholic Stewardship Conference to better serve the parish. We also provide parish-wide distribution of books and other materials that will help on your Faith Journey.

This is your parish and it is your responsibility to help it thrive. Please take this to prayer.

Give God Some Control

I just spent 15 days on vacation in the Pacific Northwest. We put 3,000 miles on the motorhome and saw things that we never expected to see.

While I was getting ready for my trip, people asked me where I was going. My answer was always that we hoped to see the Columbia River (the border between Oregon and Washington). What routes we would take, what stops we would make, where we would spend the nights was all to be serendipitous.

Along the way, we saw humpback whales in the bay at Avila Beach (just north of Pismo Beach on the 101), bungee jumpers on the Crooked River Bridge (just south of Bend, Oregon), wind surfers on the Columbia River in Cascade Locks, a herd of elk in the California Redwoods. We also saw the harvesting of eels to be airlifted to Korea in Newport, Oregon and a bed & breakfast inn consisting of old railroad cabooses in Clear Lake, CA, .

We didn’t intend or expect to be in any of those places.

Those who know me know that I am a planner. To a fault. I like to be in control of myself and situations around me. I actually have a plaque on my desk that says “Trust me, Barbie, I have everything under control. —Jesus”

So when I have the opportunity to get away from my normal routine, I get as far away from it as I can.

It actually makes me feel closer to God when I let Him direct my path instead of insisting that I know what is best for me.

I know what you’re thinking…
A two week vacation in not analogous to life. But I beg to differ with you. I think we need to get in that kind of mind-set on a more regular basis, even if we’re still entrenched in our normal daily routines.

What if every night when you went to bed and every morning when you got up, you asked God to help direct your path?

My Mom always said that “God helps those that help themselves.” So obviously, you have to have a plan. You have to keep your life in order. But I really believe that God will help you see outside the box if you’re open to it.

Think about living your Christian Faith. Did you complete a Covenant a few weeks ago? Did you commit to becoming involved in some way? Keep yourself open to direction. You may have to try several ministries before you find the one that is the best fit for you. Don’t get discouraged. The right path is there; you’ll find it.



I want to publicly thank those who shared their personal stories last week with their fellow parishioners. The testimony was moving and inspiring. They have each been touched by the Holy Spirit and Stewardship as a Way of Life. The same is there for each and every one of you. If you have not already heard the Call, make your prayers more intentional and be open to the fluttering of the Spirit. It may come as no more than a whisper. Be alert.

Today, as you enter into a renewed Covenant with God, please take home the reminder card. On one side is the Covenant Prayer. Try to make it a daily prayer. It only takes a few minutes and will remind you of your personal commitment to create a deeper relationship with Lord.

Heavenly Father,
You have formed me to be all that I am
and given me all the I have.
I thank you for your gift of creation
and ask for your guidance
in honoring this gift.

My Lord Jesus Christ,
Help me remember the promises
I made in my Covenant with you
and not be afraid to live my faith proudly, being an example to those I encounter.

Holy Spirit,
guide me through my days and
inspire me to always try a little harder
and reach a little further,
ever moving forward on my Faith Journey,
one step at a time.

I have mentioned before that we have a vibrant Stewardship Team who is continually thinking and planning how best to serve you on your faith journey.

I would like to name and thank the members of the Team: Dick Bartlett, Marlyn & Matt Delo, Berlinda Gonzales, Silvia Jedynak, Yolanda Jessup, Marycarmen Jimenez, Macaria Lagunas, Barbie Matthiesen, Bob & Kim Mikulka, Amy Nelson, Elena Ortiz, Margarita Perez, and Julie Taylor.

Seven members of the Team will be attending the 2015 Conference of the International Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC) in Chicago in October.

Like anyone who wants to get better at what they do, continuing education is a must. This conference is beyond compare. I have personally attended it three times and come away with so many resources and tools to be used for the benefit of the parish. Although it is a conference full of speakers, vendors and workshops, it is a time of personal renewal that is unbelievably inspiring. How can you not be inspired when spending three days with thousands of people who are filled with the Spirit to the point of bursting?
This is a small sampling of the topics from which we can choose:

• Developing Leadership in Our Youth
• Stewardship and Evangelization: Two Sides of the Same Coin
• Best Practices for Successful Grant Writing
• Stewardship of Our Elders
• The Ministry of Parish Management
• Stewardship Success on a Budget
• Parish Strategic Planning
• Theology and Spirituality of Stewardship
• Engaging Parishioners With a Parish Covenant
• Best Practices for Working with Consultants
• Calling Forth Gifts of Time and Talent
• Stewardship and the Family
• Separate Parishes Moving Forward as One
• Numerous how-to workshops in Spanish
• How does stewardship equip us to go forth in the world to proclaim and live the joy of the Gospel?
• And many, many more!

I believe it is critical to the growth of our parish to have a Team of parishioners who are best equipped to live the role of Stewardship Disciples and Leaders. This conference is a valuable opportunity that only comes around once a year. Please consider sponsoring a member of the team (in any amount) to attend the conference. (Be sure to mark the envelope or check with the memo “Stewardship”.)

God bless you!

A Leap of Faith

During his short time as the Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego, Bishop Cirilo Flores established a Diocesan Commission on Stewardship. You may or may not be aware that I was asked to serve on the Commission, along with a dozen other clergy and laity from various parishes. We were tasked recently with creating a document for clergy about “Why Stewardship?” in their parishes. I was asked to tell St. Mary’s story. I share it with you forthwith.

Picture a parish living in quiet desperation. Morale is at an all-time low. Collections are suffering. Attendance is waning. The Spanish-speaking and English-speaking communities have no need for each other. Pleas for a heightened level of involvement and an increased offertory collection fall on deaf ears. The ship is sinking and everyone is exhausted.

Fast forward a few months to January 2013. The Business Manager and Finance Council Chairman are invited to meet the in-coming bishop, Bishop Cirilo Flores and the new Director of Development, Damian Esparza. They speak of many things that day, but the underlying theme is Stewardship. The Spirit is present and brings inspiration and hopeful anticipation to those gathered in His Name.

They return to the parish and enthusiastically present the ideas to the pastor. The pastor agrees to create a Stewardship Team (Business Manager [now with a concurrent title of Stewardship Director], Finance Council Chairman, and Music/Liturgy Director) and allow them to pursue whatever means are necessary to drive this forward.

The pastor and team do not fully understand what lies ahead. They take a blind Leap of Faith and trust in the Spirit to direct their endeavors.

The teams begins attending the gatherings of the Diocesan Network of Stewardship Parishes, learning from their peers. Resources and advice are shared freely. The pastor knows instinctively that he must send the team to the annual ICSC (International Catholic Stewardship Council) conference. It was to be held in Dallas and would cost several thousand dollars to pay for the conference, lodging, and airfare. The parish absolutely did not have the funds to cover the expense. Another Leap of Faith. Within days of making the payments, a parishioner drops off an undesignated check in the amount of $2,500. She’s asked if it can be used to pay for the Dallas conference. She’s thrilled to be part of this undertaking.

Just four short months after the initial Diocesan presentation, the parish launches Stewardship as a Way of Life to the parishioners. In retrospect, it could have been more polished. It could have been a lot of things it wasn’t. But it was Spirit-driven, sincere, and heartfelt. It touched hearts. It opened minds. And just two years later, the parish is living a transformation.

The Stewardship Team has grown from three to fifteen members, all engaged and dedicated to the mission. New ministries and groups have been formed. Membership in existing groups has doubled or tripled. Parishioners are attending Adult Faith Formation events. A Greeter ministry was formed and welcomes parishioners into the church at every weekend Mass.

The registration process was improved and is now a one-on-one Orientation with a member of the Stewardship Team. New parishioners feel welcomed and important and are ready to be an active part of parish life. Our English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities are now making strong efforts to collaborate. Events are being planned differently to be inclusive of all.

In September 2014, the Stewardship Team introduced a Covenant with God, a tool designed to help parishioners move further along on their faith journey. Almost 800 parishioners completed the Covenant, sealed it in a self-addressed envelope, and placed it in the Covenant chest. These were stamped and mailed back last month and they will be asked to complete a new Covenant this month. There were responses from so many parishioners immediately after signing the Covenant and in the months that followed. They shared how the process of Stewardship and the Covenant was changing their lives. They indicated that they had been starving for direction and support.

My closing words to the clergy were:

Trust in the Spirit.
Take a Leap of Faith.
God never disappoints.

I think this is advice we can all live by every single day. Never be afraid to take a leap of faith. You will be carried on the wings of the Spirit. You will not be abandoned or disappointed.

Thank you for making our parish story such an inspiring one to tell. I pray that it brings hope and encouragement to another priest and parish.

GETTING TO KNOW… Each Other—Ourselves—The Lord

Last year, through the Covenant and other efforts of the Stewardship Team, we tried to help you grow in your relationship with God.

I fervently pray that taking the time to assess your relationship with God, your parish community, and those around you has helped you grow as a Christian.

This year (beginning next weekend), we will focus a little more deeply on this process. We will provide specific events, exercises, and programs to help you get to know more people in your parish community. You probably are already familiar with those who attend the same Mass with you each Sunday, particularly those who sit in your vicinity.

Beginning next Sunday, we are inviting everyone to come to the Parish Center after Mass for a complimentary donut and cup of coffee. (We will, of course, accept donations if you feel moved to make one.) This will continue every Sunday morning. It will be hosted by different groups who will probably have a concurrent fund raiser (breakfast burritos, Bake Sale, Pancake Breakfast, etc.). Please continue to support our ministries who raise their own funds in order to not burden the parish budget.

Over the last two years, I have watched our parish change and grow in its morale and spirit. The membership in ministries and groups has grown—in some cases even doubled or tripled! New ministries have been formed. We now have a conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and a pantry ministry, Feed My People.

Even our Stewardship Team has grown from three to fifteen impassioned parishioners. Seven members of the team will be flying to Chicago in October for the annual conference of the International Catholic Stewardship Council. (If you wish to make a donation to help defray the cost, it would be most appreciated.) This is very exciting, because they will each be moved by the Spirit in a special way and will bring back something that touched them. They will then have more to share with the parishioners to make their spiritual journey more fulfilling.

Our Spanish-speaking and English-speaking communities are collaborating on a frequent basis. Before each major decision, we address concerns on how we can work together on the project.

In the past year, we have welcomed many new parishioners who have found us to be very warm and welcoming, beginning at the front doors and continuing into the pews.

We recognize that, along with getting to know others better, we grow significantly by getting to know ourselves on a more personal basis: Getting to Know Ourselves.

During Lent, we will be offering a two-week seminar on Living Your Strengths. This is an assessment that identifies your gifts and talents. If identified and used well, they turn into strengths. I have personally become involved with this and can attest to its power in my life. It has made me much more effective in what I do and how I relate to others.

Some parishioners have come forward this past year and shared stories with me of their personal transformation as a result of Stewardship as a Way of Life and more specifically, the act of making a Covenant with God. At the Masses next weekend, you will hear a Witness Talk after a brief homily.

The following weekend (September 12 & 13), we will renew our Covenant with God. Please pray about this and make it a meaningful experience. It has the power to change your life! The Covenant, along with some other offerings, will help you in Getting to Know the Lord. God Bless you!

Another Form of Progress and Development

This article, written by Mary Ann Otto, Stewardship Director, Diocese of Green Bay, WI, was originally published in the August newsletter of the International Catholic Stewardship Council.

It is not unusual that I have an immediate emotional or spiritual response to something I read. Recently, I had one such reaction when Pope Francis tweeted in June: “A decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development.” Upon reading those words, my body relaxed and I felt at peace.

Though Pope Francis’ comment was an insight directed at environmental and human ecology, the potential outcome of such a decrease overwhelmed me. The thought of living in a world that was not production or consumption driven immediately created an image in my mind of what taking a step closer to the Kingdom might look like and it made me happy.

I imagined what we consistently talk about in stewardship becoming more of a reality. It was about taking time to receive God’s gifts gratefully, nurture them responsibly, share them generously and return them to God in abundance. It was about assessing our lives as followers of Jesus and as members of humankind. The statement was a call to set priorities that reflect a God centered way of life and a change in understanding the definition of power and success.

As a baby boomer, I remember Sundays when the stores were closed and my family would take turns entertaining or visiting our cousins. On beautiful summer days we might spontaneously gather with our backyard neighbors (many of them widowed or retired) for a picnic. We scavenged our kitchens for ingredients to make a dish to pass around, put our lawn chairs in a circle and spent the day together. It was simple, but yet some of the most wonderful memories of my childhood.

When I look at my children and grandchildren I would like for progress and development to reflect a faithful simplicity and generosity. It would be a way of life that honors the earth and humankind. We would be able to redistribute the world’s resources so no one would go without. In the end, I want my children and grandchildren not to experience instant gratification and great wealth, but to experience lifelong joy. That would be progress!

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Weekend of August 22-23, 2015

In today’s Gospel, we hear that a number of Jesus’ followers left him because his message was too difficult for them to accept. In essence, they did not believe in him. He then asked the Twelve if they wished to leave as well. Peter responds by making a profound profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. The Twelve made a choice and stood by their choice, remaining loyal to their commitment to Jesus.

A good question for our reflection might be this: Are we satisfied with the stewardship we exercise over our baptismal commitment? Are we just “along for the ride?” Are we keeping Christ in front of us as we make decisions about our daily activities, our relationships, our parish, issues in the workplace, issues such as peace and justice? What is the quality of our stewardship?

Hopefully you have received last year’s Covenant in the mail (764 were mailed out last week) and have had time to reflect on the commitments you made at that time. You will have the opportunity to forge a new promise with God three weeks from today.

7 Signs You Love Comfort More Than Jesus, Part II

Refer to last week’s bulletin for the first half of this article.

4.) You keep God on a leash.
“You stay right there, God. And don’t do anything crazy.” This is the implicit mantra of comfortable Christians. God is confined to a box. Answers rarely fall in the gray area. God rarely operates beyond human understanding. Miracles. Healing. Demons. None of these filter through the box well.
So, they are out.

Comfortable Christians often use phrases like “God doesn’t work that way” and “God can’t do that” because God isn’t all-powerful…he is “most of the time” powerful.
A God without a leash is a God who will act in ways man can’t understand. That’s uncomfortable. But if God is not all-powerful, he is not a God worth serving. So, we must make a decision. Let go of the leash or follow a false god.

5.) You begin to compromise your morals.
Yesterday I ran across the first few chapters of Judges. It was around Judges 2:12 God started doing work on my heart. This is what the Spirit awakened in me: when comfort sets in, morals are compromised. The Israelites entered the Promised Land, conquered the nations in their path, settled into their new home, and…started serving other gods? Anyone else find this baffling?
How could they desert God so easily? The answer…comfort. The Israelites needed God to conquer the nations. They couldn’t do it without him. Once the conquering was over, the need for God dissipated. And when the need for God subsides, morals follow closely behind.

Here is where God split open my heart…I am no different from the Israelites. Every day, I allow the god of comfort to shackle me. I take my eyes off him and justify actions God clearly condemns.
Think about your life. Are you lowering the moral bar? Do you value holiness? This is not about legalism. This is about your heart. A heart desperate for God is a heart dedicated to thinking and acting in ways that reveal your love for him.

6.) You view Christian living as a list of “don’ts.”
Comfort-driven Christians have a laundry list of “don’ts.” They believe in righteousness by subtraction. So, you won’t catch them drinking or cursing…at least not in public.  But righteousness by subtraction is one-sided righteousness. It’s half truth.  The whole truth is your heart should grieve as much when you fail to live out the “dos” as it does when you fail to refrain from the “don’ts.” But comfortable Christians don’t like the “dos.” It involves them getting out of their comfort zone. It involves them taking the message of the gospel to their neighbor. It involves them feeding the poor and correcting injustices.
Are you minimizing righteousness to a list of “don’ts”? Does your heart break for those who don’t know Jesus? Do you grieve when you pass over an opportunity to plead the cause of the poor and oppressed? Is your heart desensitized to the orphans and widows?   If not, maybe it’s time to ask whether you follow comfort or Jesus.

7.) Every person in your circle looks and acts like you.
A few weeks ago, God introduced me to a young man. It was obvious this guy had a tough life. But I was drawn to him immediately. I invited him to our college ministry events and introduced him to a few of our leaders. Then, we had a phone conversation. And in this conversation he informed me he was a homosexual who recently spent time in prison for arson and attempted murder. What I thought next is the same thing some of you are probably thinking. What if he hurts someone? What if he steals something? What was I doing?  See the problem?

The old demon comfort reared its ugly head. When he explained all the “bad” sins he committed, I immediately felt my comfort violated. I threw up walls. I labeled him.  And this is what comfort says. The gospel is not good news for everyone. It’s good news for those in your circle. Instead of a message for the world, the gospel is a message for “your people.”  When comfort is more important than Jesus, small groups become country clubs and churches become barricaded forts. The very ones we should be reaching for Jesus are the ones not allowed to enter.
I am excited about the future. God is working. I believe in the church because I believe in the king who reigns over her. This is not a call to self-pity. This is a call to revival. A call to action. We must tear down the wall of comfort so God can flood our heart and allow his transforming power to spill onto the darkness in this world.

Thank you, Mr. Powell. Well said!

Seven Signs You Love Comfort More Than Jesus

Every morning on my way to work, I listen to the Patrick Madrid Show on Immaculate Heart Radio (AM 1000). This morning, he was sharing an article written by Frank Powell in Christian Living. He begins…

This past weekend, while traveling home with my family, I narrowly avoided tragedy. I was changing lanes on a busy interstate. Nothing new there. I frequent busy interstates. But this time was different. As I eased over, I failed to see the car in my blind spot. Then came a loud horn followed by screeching brakes. Looking through the rear view mirror, I saw the inches that separated a safe return home from being a statistic. Talk about sobering.
And this terrifying moment reminded me of an important reality…failure to check a blind spot can be catastrophic.
Blind spots aren’t relegated to cars. Relationships. Jobs. Organizations. Blind spots are everywhere. Think about slavery. An enormous blind spot in American history. How could so many great leaders support such a despicable act? But it happened. And the fallout from the era of slavery is still felt today.

The church is not immune to blind spots either. And the greatest hole, the greatest blind spot, in American Christianity today is the widespread pursuit of comfort.  And if American Christians do not identify the blind spot, the results could be catastrophic. Comfort pulls us away from God. It clouds the truth of the gospel. It creates tension between the life God calls us to and the life we desire for ourselves. And ultimately, comfort prevents us from seeing the fullness of God in this life…and maybe the next.
Much of what follows is a personal confession from a comfortable Christian. I fight a battle everyday with comfort. So, I ask you to pray for me before you read any further…And as you move forward, I ask you to consider how my personal confession parallels your journey. Maybe there is an area you haven’t given to God. Maybe comfort is driving the train of your life.  How would you know? Here are 7 signs of a Christian that loves comfort more than Jesus.
1.) You are a referee not a player.    When comfort trumps Jesus, cynicism and judgmentalism are soon to follow. Comfortable Christians move from a player on the field to a referee on the sidelines. Think about it. Players are too busy to investigate holding or lining up illegally. But referees? This is their only purpose. Referees watch every player on every play. And when someone commits a penalty, a flag is thrown. “Foul! She did something in children’s ministry I don’t agree with.” “Foul! I didn’t like what the preacher said today.”  Active Christians don’t have time for this nonsense. They are serving and building the kingdom. The church should ignore referees. They don’t understand the game…they aren’t on the team.

2.) Your desire and passion for God are stagnant.  Christians should live with a healthy discomfort. Always. You should welcome preachers who push you and challenge you to explore deeper levels of God’s nature and character, grace, and immeasurable power.
You should constantly push to know and understand more of God. Every part of your life should awaken you to God’s unfailing love, infinite grace, and immeasurable power.
The process of God molding you into his image is a lifelong pursuit. You don’t “arrive.” God is infinite. And stretching towards an infinite God requires growing pains. Comfortable Christians don’t like pain.
But if the goal is to know God more intimately, you must live with a healthy discomfort.

3.) You talk like an atheist.  When God is over-shadowed by comfort, he rarely comes out of your mouth during conversation. How often does God cross your mind in a 24-hour period? At work, do you look for opportunities to inject God’s name into conversations? At school, does God shape your encounters with friends and teachers?

Whatever you are passionate about you will talk about. Write that down. When I met my wife, I called all my friends. I even called people I didn’t know. I wanted the world to know this beautiful, amazing woman actually liked me.  What about God? Are you passionate about him? Would any of your co-workers or classmates know you are a Christian? When comfort drives the train, God takes a back seat.

Next week, I will conclude with reasons 4-7 of Seven Signs You Love Comfort More than Jesus.

Stewardship Demands a Personal Relationship with God

The following article was taken from the July 2015 issue of our Diocesan newspaper, The Southern Cross and was written by Denis Grasska.

If you’re trying to promote stewardship [in your life] but don’t have a personal relationship with God, good luck!

That was the message that retired Bishop Robert H. Brom delivered June 10 at Sacred Heart Parish in Ocean Beach during the monthly meeting of parishes of San Diego Stewardship Network.

Composed of clergy, parish staff members and other lay Catholics, the Stewardship Network represents parishes throughout the diocese and exists to share best practices regarding stewardship.

“Stewardship is all about discipleship, it’s about encountering Jesus, it’s about conversion of mind and heart, and it’s about communion with Jesus in a loving relationship that might be called—and best called—friendship,” Bishop Brom said. “Stewardship will never work…without an intimate, personal knowledge of God, with an ever deeper discipleship.”

Because of Original Sin, the bishop explained, humanity was estranged from God and desperately needed the assistance of a higher power.

“What’s the good news?” Bishop Brom asked. “That, in the condition of sin, there is help available. And help has a name; His name is Jesus. He comes with the mission of drawing us into communion with God as intended from the beginning.”

“In the mystery of the Incarnation,” the bishop continued, “God…entered into the context of all flesh, in every living situation until the end of time. And that’s our gift.”

Stewardship is about how we respond to that gift: by giving in gratitude for what we first received, he explained. It is a loving response to God’s merciful love.

The first step is simply to recognize “the magnitude of the gift,” Bishop Brom said. Otherwise, “we’ll probably be very stingy” in our own giving.

“We should be fostering a deep awareness of our giftedness,” he said. “Every good gift comes to us from God, and the greatest of these gifts is God’s gift of Himself to us in Jesus?”

“Can you think of a greater gift?” he asked.

Bishop Brom stressed that stewardship will be unsuccessful unless those attempting to promote it actually know Jesus personally, rather than just having knowledge about him.

Stewards must know the real “Christ in the flesh”, not a “plastic Jesus” or the inanimate version found on a church crucifix or rosary, Bishop Brom said.

“Don’t sterilize the context of the gift and the price of the gift,” he said. “When people say, ‘How much should I give in return,” the answer is…everything you can in response to the God who gave everything of Himself to us.”

He concluded by reiterating that stewardship will be unsuccessful unless those attempting to promote it actually know Jesus personally, rather than just having knowledge about him.

Last September, we each made a personal Covenant with God, detailing the steps we would take on our Faith Journey to develop a deeper relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In the next week or so, you will receive the covenant that you filled out last year. Please review it and access your progress. No one needs to see it but you. If you made a promise that you didn’t keep, don’t beat yourself up over it. The time wasn’t right. Maybe you put your energy into something that wasn’t even marked originally, but the Holy Spirit put it in your heart!