Sunday, October 14, 2012

Give it Away

Happy New Year (of Faith), everybody!

   Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time   B 

On Friday nights and Saturday mornings in the rectory,
there’s a question we priests ask each other often enough:
What are you preaching about this Sunday?
My homily this week wasn’t coming together the way I wanted,
and I found myself asking that question
over lunch just yesterday.

And as soon as I had asked it,
I knew that question held the key
to the message I’m supposed to deliver to you now.
(And—no—that’s not because
I pilfered some extraordinary insight from Fr. Tom or Fr. Stitt!)

You see, when someone else asks me that question,
I’m usually a little hesitant about giving an answer.
I may know full well what I’m preaching about…
…and it may be a very, very good idea…
…but there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to share it.
That’s my good idea! 
I’ve worked hard on it, and why should I just give it away?

Now, it’s not like I’m being asked
for my top-secret design for a life-changing invention,
and that sharing it will cost me a chance to make millions.
And if it’s going from one preacher to another,
aren’t we all about accomplishing the same goal?
Really, I have absolutely nothing to lose
and—from the perspective of why we preach in the first place—
there’s only something to be gained.

In the gospel,
we’re given quite a lesson 
on riches and poverty.
A wealthy man comes up to Jesus 
very eager and earnest,
but walks away from him rather sad:
he finds it easier 
to let go of his hopes for eternal life
than to let go of his many possessions.
How sad that must have left Jesus, too!
He knows that the riches of this world
can’t begin to compare 
to the treasures of heaven.

You see, with earthly goods,
there’s only so much to go around.
Whether it’s food or clothing or shelter—
or the money we use to buy all three—
it necessarily comes in a limited supply.
Oh, there are plenty of resources available to make sure
that no one goes hungry or naked or homeless…
…but the problem is we don’t want to share.
That’s mine! 
I worked hard for that, and why should I just give it away?
Deep down, I think, we’re afraid that there won’t be enough—
that we’ll go without, too.

If Jesus challenges this sort of thinking about earthly goods,
how much more so about spiritual ones!
This past Thursday,
the Catholic Church around the world began a Year of Faith,
which continues until the end of November 2013.
When announcing it,
Pope Benedict XVI described this special year
as a time for Catholics to rediscover the joy of believing
and their enthusiasm for sharing the faith.
Faith is not a limited resource,
because it is not an achievement of human effort—
a theory to be proven or a riddle to be solved—
but is a gift from God himself.
We should have no fear of sharing our faith with others…
…because there is no chance of it running out.
In fact, it’s when we try to keep it to ourselves
that we risk losing the most;
it’s when we give it away that faith multiplies.

Some of you are familiar
with the Catholic publication, Magnificat
a monthly booklet that contains the daily readings for Mass
as well as other prayers and reflections.
Magnificat has published a Year of Faith Companion,
with something for every day of this special year.
This little book has done so well
that it’s already in its third printing…
…which is why I don’t have any of them for you yet.
We’ll be receiving ours in a couple of weeks.
And not just a few of them, either; I’ve order 1,000 copies.

Here’s the deal:
If you want to take a copy for yourself,
then you’re going to have to take two—
and the second one, you’re going to have to give away.
I want you to give it away to a Catholic in our community
who’s on the fence or has stopped practicing their faith;
or I want you to give it away to someone who isn’t Catholic
and who has no spiritual home.
The book will come with a short letter from me,
and a very brief questionnaire which you can bring back to church
if the person to whom you give that second copy
chooses to fill it out.

So while we wait for them to arrive,
I ask you to give some serious thought
to whom you could give your second book.
That shouldn’t be too hard!
We all know folks—at work, in the neighborhood,
even members of our own families—
whose relationship with Christ and his Church
isn’t what it could or should be.
The numbers tell me that for every one of you at Mass right now,
there are four or five more Catholics here in Malone
that we do not see on a regular basis.
That’s not a state of affairs we should be comfortable with!
And the best way to turn things around
is through one-on-one contact—
by making a personal invitation.
So as we wait for our shipment of books,
think about who you will approach,
and begin to pray for that person
and their openness to its message.

Jesus says—quite stunningly—
that it’s easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle
than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.
If you’ve ever even tried to thread a needle the regular way,
you know that’s difficult enough!
It’s not something that happens by accident,
not something that comes together all on its own.
So, too, with faith.
We mustn’t get complacent about it.

Here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg,
we’ve got a special slogan for the Year of Faith:
“Taste again for the first time.”
It refers to our taste for the living and effective Word of God;
it refers to our taste for the Holy Eucharist
and the grace offered us in the other sacraments;
it refers to our taste for reaching out in love
to meet the needs of the poor in body and the poor in spirit.
May this new Year of Faith increase our appetite for believing!
In the months ahead
may we rediscover the Catholic faith with such joy and enthusiasm
that we could never keep it to ourselves!
We have absolutely nothing to lose;
there’s only something—everything—to be gained.