The passage from the Gospel of Matthew (23:1-12) we hear on the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time serves as a reminder that God calls each of us to be a servant for others no matter how old we might be. But now, soon to be in my mid-sixties, I am reaching the age when I can’t remember what I enjoyed for dinner last night. I can’t recall what I walked into a room to do, to get, or to say. I have to pause for a moment to think about where I left my car keys and where I parked my car. Sometimes when I celebrate Mass, my mind searches for the words I have prayed over and over again for nearly thirty years.
As I reflect on my ageing with my loss of memory, it seems to me that I can see it in two different ways. It can be either seen as an unavoidable tragedy or it can be seen as a new way of life. The first way will make me bitter, unhappy, and isolated. The second way will open the doors to sharing who I am and what I have to offer no matter how small, how large, or how unpredictable that may be. To do the former is to deny all the gifts that God has given me. To do the latter is to remain a good and faithful steward of the many gifts God has given me even as the gifts decline in quality and number.
It seems to me that good stewardship calls for simplicity—adjusting my living patterns in order to make the most responsible use of my time, abilities, and finances—to view life as an unbelievable gift from God. Living in a community is the basis for simplicity and a stewardship lifestyle. Whether we are single, married, widowed, or a member of a religious community, common ground is found in a mutual awareness of the sacred and shared love of God and the faith that we profess together.
As believers, we constantly seek to become more “grounded in Christ.” Community teaches us to give from our poverty rather than from our abundance, to become aware that we cannot give more to others until our own needs are taken care of first. “You can’t give what you don’t have” is a common phrase that expresses the need to build and maintain the necessary spiritual, human, material, and financial resources required to reach out to others.
When I was a younger priest, I was hired by two inner city parishes to determine whether or not a successful ministry of evangelization and outreach could be developed and maintained by both parishes working together. While the members of both parishes had the desire to evangelize and to provide outreach ministry, they did not have the necessary human, financial, or material resources to do so. Their hearts and intentions were in the right place but they did not have the strength needed to undertake a new ministry either together or alone. My recommendation, much like the recommendation of a personal trainer, was for them to begin by building up their strength in their own parishes first. They needed to adjust their living patterns in order to make the most responsible use of their time, abilities, and finances to view life as an unbelievable gift from God that they could then share with others through the ministry of evangelization and outreach. At times, I do remember to visit the web-pages of these two parishes. Each one has developed its own unique identity and qualities to provide evangelization and outreach.
Because we are a people for people, we must continually see to it that our own spiritual and physical needs are met so that we can reach out to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others? This requires that we stay aware of and working towards the needed repair and maintenance of the buildings, roofs, and equipment on our campus. This means that the musical instruments, public address system, and liturgical environment that have served us well in the past are repaired or replaced as needed. This calls us to work together to raise funds by processing strawberries to be sold at the State Fair, contributing our time and effort for the Fall Festival, attending the Fix-It Dinner, purchasing pies from the Pie Fund Raiser, continuing to benefit from the Scrip program, and supporting the fund raising activities of the Rosary Society and Men’s Club.
When we reflect on our ageing, it seems to me that we can see it in two different ways. It can be either seen as an unavoidable tragedy or it can be seen as a new way of life. Which do we choose?
Fr. Bob Kelly