Tuesday, November 10, 2015

She gave all that she had

Sunday's Gospel is one of my favorite readings...it ends with
Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood." Mark 12

I have always taken the reading at face value. It used to get me into trouble when we were first married. Like, when they had a second collection for the Little Sisters to which we contributed then, after Mass, I saw one of the Sisters at the door and slipped her another $20 ;0) DH wasn't angry, he just wondered why I always seemed to give away most or all of what is in my pocket...especially when some member of the clergy or consecrated life is involved.

I suppose, in one way, it's because I have both no understanding of money (which is why my debt was a bit troublesome in my single days) and a great respect for it (which was taught to me by DH, who still believes that $20 is a "lot" of money). Having had the blessing of a frugal spouse, I have been better able to make judgments about what something is worth and whether it's a need or a want. Not many things are truly a "need".  We went to look at some houses this weekend and the kids' bedrooms in the higher-end homes really effected DH. It's pretty clear that "want" is winning out. No one is immune. You may notice that I have want/need confused regarding food and drink many days. A blog about priorities will come at some other time.

Anyway, I've been thinking about this more lately, especially with respect to tithing in church.

Yes, now you can arrange your offering totally online. I can imagine a day before too long, the whole collection at Mass will be a token, if done at all. That's sad to me. We grew up with kids' envelopes and we tried to earn money or save some allowance so that we had something to put in our envelope each week. The kids' envelopes are gone at our parish now and teaching our kids the importance of supporting the parish financially in addition to your time and effort is kind of lost. We don't really sit down and go over the bank statement with the 8-year-old.

Doesn't apply, really, it just made me laugh.

Maybe this is the ultimate plan...like the widow, we give in secret and then it is truly only between us and God. No accounting for donations, no envelopes, just offering. It doesn't really flow, though, because there are always names to go with the big physical donations (hymnals, pews, statues). If it's all for God's glory, why do we want to put our name on it so that we have glory as well? I'm guessing we've gone this way more so that there is no "judgement" of those who don't put an envelope in each week. Why is there judgment about that? You give or you don't ...you forgot or you chose to use your funds for something else...God sees it all so why would anyone worry about what the guy in front of you has done?

The envelope/online donation has caused us to rethink the whole tithe issue anyway. It's been a good thing...we have realized that giving a sizable percentage of your income to worthy organizations should be part of the budget but the giving doesn't need to start and end in your parish. Our donations are still the same part of our income; we're just more likely to spread the money around to other organizations that we know are using the money to directly bring Christ to those who most need Him. Meeting priests and nuns who are "in the trenches" and doing the hard work of saving souls...they will always figure highly into that percentage.

Lately, we've also been making a really big effort to give in non-monetary ways to support our parish. The things we do and sacrifices we make aren't really that noticeable...they aren't the big jobs that get all the press. That's perfect for me. I want my kids to know and understand that payment (intrinsic or extrinsic) isn't the motivation for the action. You help when you can, as much as you can because it's the right thing to do. Watching the older two on the altar and knowing, God-willing, that one day there will be a full set of servers from our family is a happy thought. My widow's mite (if God calls them) may one day saying "yes" to several vocations among my kids...even if that means there is no one left to care for me. Despite knowing the struggle it would entail, I can't imagine a bigger blessing. Our marriage and our children have always been about gaining more workers for the vineyard. I pray God has a good plan for them and that we can raise them without leading them astray.

So, in the end, it's all about trust. I know you saw that coming. The trust of giving all that you can, in all the ways that you can, to help continue Christ's teachings and spread them to our God-starved world. Trust that you can live with less and pass on the extra to those who would cherish a fraction of what you "need". We are the same here. It is a constant struggle. The convenience and expectations of our society are difficult to overcome. Being conscious of it is the first step. Then, instead of grabbing dinner out because you're in a rush, plan ahead and take something along so the money you save can be donated to someone who needs a meal that day. Open up your schedule to physically help causes that help those who need to experience Christ. Pray! You can do that anywhere/anytime. Really. I was praying a rosary while walking across campus on Saturday and no one said anything. It benefits you, the ones who receive your prayers and the people who see you value it enough to make it part of your day.

We are blessed.

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