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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Widow's Mite - Small Things with Great Love Capital Campaign

Audio (9:30am Mass) Click here!

God wants us to give Him everything before we can receive everything.  This is the lesson of the readings today, both the widow of Zarepath who is called by Elijah to give up her last bit of food in service of God's will, and of the widow at the temple who in the Gospel gives up her whole livelihood for God.  They seem to be at rock bottom, but still they give.  What a testimony of faith and trust in God.  And for that they are richly rewarded.
It seems that God chooses to work most powerfully in the lives of those who completely depend on Him, who hold nothing back for themselves.  If we give God everything, then we are finally empty handed enough to receive the abundance he wants to offer us (usually not material abundance).  Sometimes that's how God works.  Perhaps that's always how God works.
Mary was asked by Gabriel to trust God with her life.
Joseph, when he took the holy family and fled for Egypt, was putting their lives completely in God's hands.  Traveling at that time didn't have any of the protections we have nowadays that make it safe and less stressful.
David when he faced Goliath without any armor and only a sling was giving up control entirely to God and trusting Him alone, something none of the other soldiers of Saul's army were willing to risk, even fully equipped.
Job had to abandon himself to God's will when he lost everything, and eventually God blessed Him abundantly.
Elijah himself will put everything in God's hands when he challenges the 450 false prophets by himself alone at Mount Carmel, just in the chapter following today's passage.  He has to run out of the country to escape the wrath of the queen Jezebel.
Giving up everything to God is a requirement of the spiritual life.  This is what Jesus means when He says "everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple."  But not just possessions, Jesus mentions that we must put our relationships (father, mother, sister, brother) and even our own lives second to following Him, which is why the martyrs are so important to us: they did precisely that.
Sacrifice is a special word.  It literally means to make something holy or to do a holy deed.  In the Old Testament, things were made holy by being offered to God in the temple.  Yes animals and food offerings were sacrificed to God, but also the people and the things that were before God were made holy through those rituals.  Then they were dedicated only to God's service.  This is what our entire lives should be: given completely to God, then returned back into our control to be used for His Glory.  The word Stewardship means pretty much the same thing: a steward is in charge of something that does not belong to him, so he must take care of it and use it in the way his master desires.  Our lives, and all we have, are meant to be lived in stewardship.  Like Mary, Joseph, David, Elijah, the widows of today's readings, and all the saints, we need to live as if our lives are not our own, but about something much greater than ourselves.  In this Eucharist, God wishes to give us the abundant blessing of Eternal Life that is found in His Son Jesus.  But we must give Him everything first.  Let us pray to the saints to show us how to do that day after day.

Today is committment Sunday for our capital campaign and so I would like to ask the ushers to distribute the pledge cards as I begin to review the case of our campaign.  As you receive your pledge cards, please fill out the basic information as I do a quick run-through again of our needs which you've heard about in the past weeks and received a letter in the mail outlining the campaign.  Our parish is looking to raise $1.3 million dollars over three years for various projects to help our parish church to be a visible sign of the vibrant life that is present here day after day.  In order to ensure our church stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer, we are planning to replace the over 60-yr old boiler and the A/C units which will require replacement in a few years by government regulation.  We will also install A/C for Payne Hall below the church.  The church itself will receive new lighting to brighten up the space and spread light better on our ceiling and paintings of the stations of the cross.  The 30-yr old flooring will be replaced.  The church pews will have the kneeler pads replaced.  The tabernacle will receive a larger altar of repose.  The choir and Mary shrine will trade places, and the chapel will have a glass divider allowing the chapel to be used as a "calming area" during Masses, with a door toward the rear of church.  New audio technology for hearing aids should assist people with difficulty from ambient noise and allow them to participate more fully in the liturgy.  An information kiosk in the back of church will provide a central location for helping people get involved in the parish.  Finally, we also will cover the Annual Bishop's Appeal and prepare to replace the parish center roof and resurface the parking lot.  These plans will cover our foreseeable needs to put our parish in position for continued success and growth as we bring the love of God to the world from our prayer and through our service to the poor and needy.
But this is going to require all of us to be a part of it, and today we are doing this together, because we really are doing this together.  As we prepare to make our own pledges, I am happy to confess that we have already received pledges from about 60 households to amount to almost $400,000 of our goal, of which my personal pledge is a part (yes, my meager salary is going to help build our church!).  This pledge total is a phenomenal sign of the dedication of our parishioners and evidence that we can attain this goal.  I am truly grateful to those who have stepped forward in faith already to reach this huge portion of our goal, almost one third already!  But to finish our goal, sacrifice is needed on behalf of all of us, and so I ask you to consider at least the commitment to give $1.50 each day (that is, $45 a month) for 36-months to our pledge campaign.  This is truly a case of the widow's sacrifice, putting everything into God's hands.  I am excited about the work that this parish offers to South Bend and St. Joseph County in so many ways, and am hopeful that this project will be a true benefit to our parishioners and really enable us to continue our mission and ministries.
Please look over your pledge cards to be sure they are complete, and I now invite our ushers to come to the front of church and begin to collect the pledges.
I want to thank you for your pledge today, for your commitment to give everything to God like Mary, Joseph, and Therese the little flower.  May we continue to do our small things with great love, and find joy in filling the heart of God with our love.
Every single pledge will receive a thank you letter in the mail.  If we have not heard from parishioners due to travel, etc., they will receive a series of follow-up mailings inviting them to participate in this important campaign.

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