Saturday, August 03, 2013

What is our stuff for? (Sunday homily)

All this week, I’ve been trying to write a homily for this weekend—
reflecting on the readings, about materialism and greed—
but most days, I’ve been too busy focusing on our festival!

This is an interesting juxtaposition, isn’t it?

At first, I thought about how this works itself out in the secular world, 
but it occurred to me: 
how does it work itself out in our parish?

Why do we have a festival? 
It’s fun and it brings the community together—
but it’s also a lot of work.
I’m going to give our staff some time off after all this. 
They’ve worked hard, as have so many of our parishioners, 
and many volunteers from the community.

Why do we do it? A big reason is because we need the money.

We have this church, parking lot, priest’s house, parish hall; 
if we didn’t own any of this—
if we just rented a room each week for Mass—
we wouldn’t need nearly as much money.

So are we like the fellow in the Gospel, just piling up stuff?

It depends on what the stuff is for.

When I went to Piqua, and I moved into the rectory, 
the priest who had been pastor before me was there.

One evening, I had some folks coming for dinner,
and in the dining room was a cabinet filled with beautiful glassware. 
I wanted to use the good stuff, so I went to that cabinet.
And the retired priest was shocked and said:
“You can’t use those glasses!”

“I can’t? Why not?”

“Because they’re Sarah Jone’s glasses!”  (I’m changing the names here.)

“Who’s she?”

“She’s a parishioner.”

“How did we get her glasses?”

“Well, she died and donated them.”

“Then, I think she won’t mind if we use her glasses!”

So we did. 
And, guess what? Eventually, we broke some of the glasses—
And that is what Father was trying to avoid by not using them.

But the point of “stuff”—money, property, fancy glassware—
Is that it be used to benefit people.

Part of our Catholic Social Teaching is that
God has given us a world of abundance; 
and that abundance is meant for the benefit of all.

We call this “the universal destination of goods.”

That doesn’t mean we can’t acquire things; 
it doesn’t make being wealthy is a bad thing. 

But it does mean that for each and every one of us,
whether we have a lot of stuff, or only a little,
We are not the absolute owners of it.
We’re not even the absolute owners of ourselves—
Which bears on other issues of our Catholic Faith.

The mistake the man in the Gospel made was he forgot
That God made us a trustee of all we have;
not just treasure, but time and talents as well.
Everything on our balance-sheet is God’s first; and ours second.

And as much as we do try to run this parish in a business-like way,
That must be how our parish operates too.

We aren’t selling a product.
Jesus Christ isn’t a bag of Doritos, 
And we don’t re-make the formula to suit current tastes!

He is the Truth that humanity needs; 
even if he isn’t always what we want.

If we measured Christianity as a business, 
Then everyone who died for this Truth would be a failure:
Starting with the Lord himself!

Every time this parish asks of each other—
an hour, a dollar, or the use of your talents—
We owe a further explanation: what for?
How will this save souls?
How will this build the kingdom of Christ?