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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Homily - Views on Work: Stewardship vs. Consumerism

Audio: Click here

I want to make sure before my long tirade that we all are clear on the main point of this Gospel, so here it is: Heaven is worth anything - anything, even martyrdom.  Don't get sucked in to imagining that it's not enough to satisfy every single desire you could ever want.
Okay, now I'm going to talk about stewardship.  In this world of sin, our fallen human nature has that tendency toward sin (called concupiscence) that makes us see things from a corrupted perspective: we look at work and boil it down to just some way to get money, like in the parable.  But as Isaiah tells us, "my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways."  God remembers what work was meant to be.  We Catholics have to start thinking about things at a deeper level, not get sucked into the shallow views of the culture.
If we look around, we can see that work is not just about money.  The teachers in our school aren't doing it for the big paycheck, folks.  Their excellent skills could be compensated much better in public schools, but they stay at St. Pius because there is something besides money in their work here.
In today's Gospel parable, some of the workers  are sucked into the culture's way of thinking.  They look at work with a consumerist mentality: "what am I giving? what am I getting?"  Apparently consumerism has been around for quite some time in one form or another.  But the interesting thing about those 11th-hour workers is this: were they playing the game of "the best deal" or were they resisting a consumerist mindset?  I think they were waiting around for something worth giving their lives to.  And when the Lord invited them, they jumped at the opportunity and discovered a better way to live: Stewardship.
Stewardship helps us to think about work and about money at a deeper level: ultimately, every good thing we have is either a direct or derivative gift from God - it can all be traced back to His generous love.  Along with that, our work is a necessary collaboration with God's plan for our world: to make a communion of saints here on earth and not just in heaven.  So work is much bigger than just money, and here are some big examples:
1. Whether it is a paid job, a sport, an artistic talent, a chore at home, or a school assignment, work sanctifies us. We become saints one bit at a time, something that money could never buy.  Work fosters virtues in our hearts: discipline, perseverance, patience, courage, prudence, self-control, humility.  All of these are the building blocks of holiness, and many are fruits or gifs of the holy spirit.
2.  Work build's God's kingdom of peace and justice.  By work, we get a chance to let God work through us in bringing heaven to earth.
3.  Work teaches us to love.  In work, we learn how to properly relate to others and give of ourselves.  So many parts of any task (paid or otherwise) are done better if we are considerate and kind toward others.  This helps us to infuse love into all that we do.
Those are just a few examples.  I welcome you to think up some more from your own reflections.

Lastly, we find ourselves in the parable among those workers.  The question comes to all of us: who will you serve?  God or stuff?  Will you be a consumer, or a steward?  As I now invite Jan Druyvesteyn to come forward for her witness in stewardship, let us pray for the grace to remember that heaven is worth anything.

Witness Message for Stewardship Services - September 20 & 21, 2014
Saint Pius X Catholic Church (by Jan Druyvesteyn)

Four years ago this fall, I began weekly sessions in RCIA, thanks to Father Bill’s encouragement. I was received into full communion in the church the following Easter Vigil, and things have not been the same since. That’s the reason, this Stewardship Weekend (Sunday) I am grateful to share my story.
By way of introduction to the Catholic Church my husband (a new Catholic himself) gave me a subscription to The Magnificat – the monthly meditation that I know many of you read. The daily Scripture readings, prayers, and meditations opened my heart and fed me spiritually. So much so, that after a year, I was actually “dependent” on reading it each day. That was the beginning of the path that led to Saint Pius. What was happening, I realized, was the fulfillment of the words in the Epistle of James, chapter 4:8, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”  And God did – beyond my imagining.
To my surprise, I discovered that the Scripture readings for today hold that same message: Isaiah 55: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near,” and  Psalm 145: “The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.”
So – drawing near to God ever more faithfully through prayer, reading God’s word, and listening in silence to the Holy Spirit, re-set priorities in my life. I began closely watching how I used my time and ally resources. I realized I was swept away – as most of us are – by the presumed “need” in our society for more and more possessions, for the excuses to be self-indulgent (think... specialty coffee drinks, the extra glass of wine … fill in the blanks) – and the mindless living with excess. 
What’s interesting is that I didn’t intentionally decide to change any habits. The changes occurred because I had drawn nearer to God. And one of those changes, or decisions, was how – and how much – I was giving to the church. I no longer viewed my annual pledge as an obligation, but rather an act of worship.  It’s thanksgiving! And that’s also what the Eucharist is for us each time we are here in worship to receive the body and blood of Christ. 
All that we have is from God – entrusted to us to serve him.  So I asked myself, “How can I possibly thank God except to return to him in thanks-giving ALL my gifts: time, talent, and treasure.
We are blessed to be members of this parish, to worship in a community that supports one another and seeks to be faithful witnesses of Christ’s love. We are blessed by Father Bill and Father Terry who lead us in worship and help guide us along our way through life. Many of us know what it’s like to have Father Bill walk through the door of a hospital room. He is in that instant the face of Christ.  And how often he, and Father Terry come alongside us when we are in need of comfort, support, or blessing.
I had a very dear friend, name Elsie, who rather late in her life discovered the peace and joy of drawing near to God. Elsie always said, “Gratitude is everything.”  May we all count our blessings today – in gratitude – and pray for what we might do to repay those blessings – past, present, and future to our wonderful parish.  May we all be disciples – shining witnesses of Christ’s love to the world – so others may come into this fellowship, welcomed as I was, into the open arms of Christ’s love. For this, I give praise to God, and I thank you.

Jan Druyvesteyn

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