Sunday, September 22, 2019

Our stewardship and our parish (Sunday homily)

Every year about this time the finance committee and I present to you 
a financial summary for the prior fiscal year, 
and a budget for the coming year. 
That appeared in last weekend’s bulletin. 

This year, the staff and I also included a “year in review” 
that was designed to tell some of the story 
of what we’ve been doing as a parish, 
to make these columns of numbers a little less abstract.

Now, it occurred to me that today’s Gospel – 
about a dishonest steward of all things! – 
maybe isn’t the best lead-in for this talk!

But in my defense, I think I am an honest steward;
In any case, I have no hesitancy whatsoever 
in giving you a full and complete accounting.

Some years, when I’ve given this talk, we faced a deficit, 
and I asked you to step up your giving to close the gap.
Last year, you were very generous, thank you;
Thanks to that – and careful spending by our staff – 
and a very successful festival in 2018 – 
as of June 30, our parish had a surplus.

For the coming year, with only a slight bump in offerings,
we’ll end the coming year with another balanced budget. 

I’m not going to go through this line by line; 
however, as I did last year, I will stay after the 5 pm Mass today,
and the 11 am Mass tomorrow, to answer any questions you may have. 
Note I said any questions; it doesn’t have to be about finances.
Anything you want to ask, just stay in your pew 
and I’ll come back and be happy to talk to you.

Why do I do this every year? 
Some would rather not hear about finances in the homily, 
and I understand.

But first, I want it to be clear that I do pay attention to these things; 
that I respect the fact that you work hard for your money,
and I take seriously my responsibility to spend it carefully and well.

Second, whether you stay after to ask questions or not,
I hope this sends the message that your questions are always welcome.
My phone number and email are in the bulletin. Contact me anytime.
Even if you don’t like my answer 100% of the time,
I will give you an honest and complete answer, and do it promptly.

Let me make a couple more points.

First, if you look at the very bottom of the summary, 
it tells you how much we have in savings. 
That’s important for our parish for the exact same reason 
it’s important for each of us and our own households, 
to have some money put by for a rainy day.
We earn interest on this – not a lot these days, but some! –
And we can access these funds when needed.

Another thing I want you to know.

Between the oversight of the finance committee, 
and the pastoral council, 
and with many controls and procedures that are in place, 
you can have high confidence in how financial matters are handled.

But I am not saying, “trust me”; feel free to verify!
Ask any questions you want, today or another time.
There is nothing to hide!

We all know that so many of our institutions and leaders, 
yes, including in the Church, have greatly disappointed us, 
and there is a loss of confidence. I am painfully aware of that.

Our hardworking staff and I want to be worthy of your trust.
I think you can feel very good about how your dollars are spent at Saint Remy, 
and I hope you will continue your generous support.

And for some here, maybe you’ve given now and then, and you realize,
it’s time to be more regular. That will help!

And for others, maybe you’ve regularly – thank you! – 
But it’s stayed at the exact same level for a lot of years. 
Maybe you can shoulder a little more of the responsibility. 
In the last twelve months, some of us have had great years;
For others, especially some of our farmers, it’s been rough.
Contributing to the mission of our parish isn’t someone else’s job, 
but the responsibility of every one of us.
That helps make us a strong and healthy parish.

Let me cycle back to the readings.
The first reading in particular talks about our duty to help the poor.
Despite the challenges, it remains true 
that you and I are extraordinarily blessed. 

So, for example, our St. Vincent de Paul group is once again 
asking your help to provide food for those with empty pantries.
Be generous, please!

And beyond that, perhaps this coming year, 
you and I can cast our gaze further out, beyond our own families, 
and beyond Russia, and be ready to share our blessings 
to make a difference for others. In a word: let’s do more!

See, I’m not the only steward here! 
Each of us has a stewardship over the many gifts God has given us. 
Not just treasure; time and talents too.

If the Lord could commend a crooked steward – not for dishonesty, 
but for being industrious and creative – 
then think of the praise and blessings Jesus will have for us, 
when you and I readily offer our own personal gifts for his work.

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