13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
We have a wealthy couple in my former Parish who are humbly serving SMDS parish community as liturgical ministers and servant-leaders for several years now. I need not mention their names and their position in the corporate world and their role in their parish community, lest I put them on the spotlight. Honestly, I am so inspired by this couple – more than they will ever know – and so edified by their profound sense of stewardship. I can see how they are living by the truth that everything they have comes from God. I can see how they are responding to God’s generosity with a deep sense of gratitude. I can see how they are being accountable for the gifts they receive from God. I can see how they are returning God’s gifts with increase by sharing them generously with others. Their service and ministry to their parish community is their personal response to God’s generous love.
The words of St. Paul to the Corinthians in today’s second reading are realized in the lives of this couple. Paul says, “For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, and for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” This couple could have used their precious time and talents for more lucrative ventures to get richer; but they prefer to devote much of their time, talents, and resources in the ministry.
Paul is talking about people who chose to make themselves “rich in faith and total concern” so that they could abound in “works of charity” among the poor. To what extent are Paul’s words realized in our lives? Just how far are we willing to make ourselves poor to enrich others?
In his book Toward Stewardship, Fr. William Byron writes about concern for the poor and sharing: “The fundamental idea of stewardship is that we own nothing absolutely; we possess things in trust for others.” “The possession of wealth, therefore, involves serious social responsibility.” “Conditions of poverty will be reduced only to the extent that those in possession of property, power, and prestige are willing to let go and share.”
Byron’s conclusions are based on the teachings of Scripture and also the Second Vatican Council. In its documents The Church in the Modern World the Council states: “The right to have a share of earthly goods sufficient for oneself and one’s family belongs to everyone.” “The Church has always taught that human beings are obliged to come to the relief of the poor, and to do so not merely out of their superfluous goods.”
We can say then that some private property and provisions for the future are necessary. But are we justified in hoarding things that are luxuries when others lack basic necessities? Our own immediate needs and those of our family do have prior claim. But does that mean we can ignore the poor and pretend that they did not exist?
The Lord Jesus identifies himself with the poor, and calls us to respond generously to the needs of our less fortunate sisters and brothers as we encounter them. We must remember that everything we have is a gift from God, given not just for our own security, but that we might share graciously and generously with others according to our abilities.
But there is one thing more to be said about this matter: Giving is our declaration of faith in Jesus Christ. Maaaring sinasabi ng ilan sa inyo: “Gusto ko naman talagang magbigay ng tulong sa mga nangangailangan, magbigay sa community pantry, mag-Balik-Handog.” “I’d like to give more to the missionary works of our parish, but I’m afraid that I won’t have enough to meet my own needs.” What does that say about your relationship to God? Do you trust God? Has God ever let you down? If you do not have enough to meet your real needs, then of course, do not give. But do not refuse to give simply because you are afraid.
Again, my dear friends, just how far are we willing to make ourselves poor to enrich others? This is exactly the challenge of stewardship and mission partnership program of our parish. And this is also the opportunity that our Parish Church is giving us: the opportunity to make ourselves “rich in faith and total concern” so that we, too, could abound in “works of charity” among the poor. It is giving us the opportunity to become Christ’s mission partners. It is giving us the opportunity to respond to God’s generous love for us.