In today’s second reading Saint Paul says, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many . . . . You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27).
Stewardship is an effort that goes in multiple directions. We all make up the Body of Christ, and are called to share what we have with others in various ways. So what do we do, and how do we do it?
Our current message series focuses on spiritual life hacks, a concept we can easily apply to our efforts to share our time, talent, and treasure with others, both to help ourselves accomplish this, and pay it forward.
Life hacks to help us as stewards include setting aside quiet time to pray to the Lord for his guidance, exploring a simple way, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, to help out at a Mass or parish function, and looking for ways to contribute to a charity, whether related to the parish, diocese, or beyond.
There are also more life hacks we can do for others, like taking a moment to greet your neighbors, or someone who happens to pass by your house when you’re outside. You could also bake goods or read to someone who is recovering from an illness. Or, the next time someone asks you for money, give them a few dollars, offer to buy them something to eat, or donate to a clothes drive.
Let us then move forward confidently, because we can continue to grow as God’s stewards in countless ways, with easy life hacks to help us help ourselves and others.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
As part of our message series for the New Year about how to make simple spiritual changes that will improve everyday life, we decided to ask and write about techniques our own staff and close friends use to grow closer to God. Here’s one such article with some practical advice about loving more.
With Christmas behind us and our thoughts and minds focused on the new year, this series of spiritual life hacks has been focused on introducing tips and tricks to enrich our spiritual lives in easy, manageable ways. A lot of our ideas have focused on new tricks, to help develop new habits and strengthen old ones. But this week’s message has no new tricks, tips, or advice. It’s only a “life hack” because it’s something we often forget to do — love.
Chapter three of the first letter of St. John, from which some of the Christmas season readings came, focuses almost completely on the theme of love. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God,” (1 John 3:1) it begins, and ending with “love one another just as he commanded us” (1 John 3:23). Love is the theme that binds the epistle together.
“The focus on love can seem very repetitive,” Sr. Angela said. “Yet that is the essence of Jesus’s teaching. Love is the word that gives me energy, enthusiasm, and meaning in my everyday life.” Sister Angela quoted the Gospel of Matthew in her commentary on love, highlighting Jesus’s greatest commandment, to love your God with all your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and his second greatest, to love your neighbor as yourself.
“These two commandments must go together,” Sister Angela said. “We cannot love God without loving others, and we cannot love others without loving God himself. How can we cultivate the love that we receive from God in order to give our love away to all of those in our lives? We must treasure moments of silence, be still, listen, and pay attention to the interior teacher.”
Love is scientifically proven to reduce stress, make us happier, ease anxiety, help us to take better care of ourselves, and help us to live longer — all happy side effects we experience as we come closer to God. Fr. Greg Boyle, Jesuit priest and founder of successful gang recovery program, Homeboy Industries, wrote: “There is no force in this world better able to alter anything from its course than love.”
Allow love to guide your actions this week. Resist the urge to speak negatively about someone. Go an entire day without raising your voice in anger. Ask someone “How are you?” and listen to the answer. Give someone a second chance. Help someone carry a burden (physical or emotional). Offer a sincere compliment. Praise another’s success. Find the good in a difficult colleague or family member.
“This week, let us look for the smallest moments of our day to ‘put love where there is no love,” Sister Angela said. “When we choose to love and to die a bit to our own ego, we are not powerless over our relationships. It is then that life blossoms.”
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
“Life hacks” are simple tips to make living easier and more fulfilling. They help ordinary people accomplish a variety daily tasks that could otherwise be frustrating or difficult. In our message series for the first five weeks of the New Year, we’re exploring some spiritual life hacks to make connecting with God more accessible and doing his will more trouble-free.
So far, we’ve covered becoming more generous people and spending more time in silent reflection to help us become more aware of our own inherent value to the Creator and he to us. Our spiritual life hack this week is to acknowledge that we actually belong to God.
Since the dawn of time, the Creator has longed for just one thing—to be in relationship with that which he created, especially humankind. But since the dawn of time, man has rejected God’s advances, seeking to do life on his own terms and ignoring the Lord’s proposals to enter a deeper relationship with him.
After leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, Moses brought them to a place in the desert called Mount Sinai, where God invited the people into a covenantal relationship. The people responded, “Everything the Lord has said, we will do” (Ex. 19:8). God then tells the Israelites that he will appear to them three days later. “Be ready for the third day,” he said, “for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people” (Ex. 19:11; Deut. 5:24).
Almost immediately the people rebelled by worshiping the image of a grass-eating bull fashioned from gold. The history of Israel after that is rife with sin, disobedience, and faithlessness, though God himself constantly remained true to the covenant he made. In the fullness of time, however, God sent his Son, Jesus, to establish a new and permanent covenant with us.
The miracle Jesus performed at the wedding feast “on the third day” in this week’s gospel story marks the unfolding of that final act in God’s saving plan. The bride and groom are barely mentioned in the reading because God actually is the groom and his people are the bride. When Mary says, “do whatever he tells you,” she reenacts Israel’s earlier but unfulfilled promise of perfect faithfulness to God at the covenantal wedding at Mount Sinai. The water of that covenant is then transformed by Jesus into the wine of a new, perfected relationship between God and his people.
You belong to God. You are his bride. “As a young man marries a virgin,” the first reading says, “your Builder shall marry you” (Isaiah 62:5). Your life is not your own. Listen to our Sunday message this week, in church or online, to learn how this single truth more than any other will help you discover your own special gifts and unique place in the world.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
We’re off to a great start to the New Year and the season of Ordinary Time as stewards. In today’s second reading Saint Paul reminds us that “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).
Our current message series is all about spiritual life hacks; a life hack refers to a trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in any walk of life. It’s also a concept we can easily apply to our efforts to share our time, talent, and treasure with others.
For example, we can share some of our time by starting a conversation with the person next to you in the checkout line, picking up stray trash from your neighbor’s lawn and walkway, spending more time listening to your lunch companions than talking to them, or helping clean up and decorate our church.
We can share our talents by preparing a couple of dinner dishes for someone recovering from an illness or a procedure, offering to walk a neighbor’s dog (especially if you have one of your own), or helping a neighbor make a minor home repair or weed their backyard.
Finally, we can share our treasure by increasing the size of the tip if we are covering the check the next time we eat out, offering to pick up a few groceries for an elderly neighbor, or giving the leftovers we’re taking home from the restaurant to a homeless person we encounter.
Since life hacks exist for just about everything in life, that means stewardship is included too. We have countless ways, small, close to home, and relatively simple or easy to accomplish, that we can use to increase our efforts as God’s stewards.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
As part of our message series for the New Year about how to make simple spiritual changes that will improve everyday life, we decided to ask and write about techniques our own staff and close friends use to grow closer to God. Here’s one such article with some practical advice.
In his “Canticle of Creation,” Saint Francis of Assisi gives thanks for all matters of the natural world — the sun, moon, stars, air, fire, Mother Earth — interspersed with praise and glory to God, their divine maker. Like Francis, many of us find solace, inspiration, or wisdom in nature; a jog through Glen Park, a walk along the beach, or even a quiet bench in the botanical gardens right here in San Francisco. Being in nature has a way of calling prayer out of us, making it simpler to enter into conversation with God.
Director of Music Ministry, Mario Balestrieri, shared that his “spiritual life hack” is to go out into nature, and find God through prayer in a “space that is boundless.”
“I live at the edge of San Bruno Mountain, and I often go to walk the trails through the park there,” Balestrieri said. “It allows me to process anything that might be heavy on my mind or my heart. The time outside, alone, while walking, allows me to process, think, and listen to inspiration or guidance that comes.”
When our busy lives surround us with people, responsibilities, and obligations pulling our focus every which way, it can be hard to find alone the time essential to building a strong, healthy, and communicative relationship with God.
“So often, we put God on the back burner, and only pull him to the front when we need something, are troubled by something, or need to figure something out,” Balestrieri said. “But since bringing God to the forefront is so obviously important, we need to eliminate the distraction that distances us from Him in the first place.”
What is it about nature that allows us to engage with the spiritual? Being outside automatically pulls us away from surface-level commitments: all manner of responsibilities, engagements, people, and possessions, providing a kind of total detachment from worldliness that cultivates the space to seek God.
Seeking God in nature often takes the form of contemplative prayer, one of the three major expressions of “the life of prayer” outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism uses St. Teresa’s definition to explain it: “‘Contemplative prayer, in my opinion, is nothing more than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.’” Nature is the setting that allows for the essential literal quiet of contemplative prayer. It is a listening, rather than an asking form of prayer, which allows us to turn our hearts and minds towards God.
Channel St. Francis this week (regarded by some as a “nature mystic” and certainly by many as a lover of the outdoors) and, try to find a bit of space and time to enjoy the outdoors — maybe even your own front- or backyard, and seek God through contemplation there. Finding God in nature could be the first step to finding God in everything.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
As part of our message series for the New Year about how to make simple spiritual changes that will improve everyday life, we decided to ask and write about techniques our own staff and close friends use to grow closer to God. Here’s one such article with practical advice about how to pray unceasingly.
As Catholics, we are called to have a deep, personal relationship with God. Much of this relationship, while guided and strengthened through weekly Mass attendance and other specific faith experiences, also must be cultivated through private prayer. Prayer is a personal conversation for us each to have with God, taking place in our own time and space. Ironically, because of the flexible nature of prayer, it can be hard to prioritize in our busy, daily lives.
Moreover, Saint Paul’s advice in his first letter to the Thessalonians seems to make matters even worse. “Pray without ceasing,” he writes (5:17), a command that comes with other exhortations like kindness, patience, and encouragement. While the latter requests seem fairly straightforward, the former is more difficult. Indeed, to pray without ceasing is a very tall order and may even seem unrealistic.
But Paul wasn’t asking people to spend every waking moment on their knees, eyes closed and hands folded. Rather, he was asking them to live with an attitude conscious of the will and workings of God, knowing that God has an almighty hand in every corner of their existence. Indeed, prayer at designated times and through designated avenues is essential, but it’s not the only way for us to turn our hearts to God.
Enter a spiritual life hack to make unceasing prayer more of a possibility. Parish manager Lisa Rosenlund reflected on how her morning-times, both at home and at work, are hectic, full of tasks to be completed and all kinds of things jostling for her attention. “My commute, though, is my quiet time,” she said, “I am not a person who can multitask while driving, simultaneously putting on makeup, eating breakfast or texting.”
So most days, she spends the time driving in from Marin County simply talking to God in a personal conversation. “I used to listen to the iBreviary or spiritual music on my commute, and sometimes still do, but I mainly spend that time in conversation with God.”
Rosenlund’s use of her commute time to have those prayerful exchanges with God is a perfect example of praying unceasingly by using small pockets of time to pray that we would otherwise use for something else. Cooking dinner, commuting, folding laundry, riding on an elevator, and even cleaning the house are also great times to pray.
While the head-bowed image might be the first to come to our minds when we think of prayer, it doesn’t mean that praying while doing something else is any less of a prayer. It gives us an intentional time and space to dedicate all of our time and all of ourselves to God, deepening our connection with Him in its own unique way.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
The alternate second reading today from the Book of Acts tells the story of a Gentile named Cornelius, who was the centurion of a cohort of archers that had come to Syria to enforce the Roman occupation of the area. Devout and God-fearing, Cornelius had generously given alms to the Jewish people of Caesarea, and God was so pleased that he sent an angel to Cornelius, who told him to invite Peter to his house.
Once he learned all that Cornelius had done, Peter said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. You know the word that he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all” (Acts 10:34-36). Peter rightly recognized that the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon Cornelius and his entire household, even though they were Gentiles, and urged that they be baptized.
Today we celebrate Jesus’ own baptism and the beginning of his public ministry. At our baptisms, we became disciples of Christ and stewards of his blessings. Like Cornelius did with people he didn’t even know but wanted to help, we also should pray and give thanks to God, as well as share our time, talent, and treasure with others.
A new year of promise has begun. Isaiah’s words in the first reading today, “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit” (Isaiah 42:1), apply also to us. It is time for us to realize that we are God’s stewards, step up, and do all that we can.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
As part of our message series for the New Year about how to make simple spiritual changes that will improve everyday life, we decided to ask and write about techniques our own staff and close friends use to grow closer to God. Here’s one such article about how a picture is worth a thousand words.
“Early mornings are my time,” said the parish’s Coordinator of Children’s Faith Formation, Carol Grewal. “I like the quiet and peacefulness of the early dawn hours.” For the last eighteen months before the sun rises, Grewal has been starting her day by reflecting on a scripture passage. “It helps me to become a better person and to live out what I am called by God to do,” she said.
Since September, however, Grewal has added to her morning routine. “I try to find an image on the internet and send it out by text message to a few important people in my life.” The picture she uses to inspire herself and others is related to the scripture passage she has been reflecting on for that morning. Adding the text of the passage, she sends off the completed image to a number of close friends, including Saint Brendan Pastor, Father Roger. “I know he isn’t an early morning person,” Grewal chuckled, “but we’ll get him there!”
Often the message includes a challenge for the day and poses a question, inviting participants to respond. Recently, for example, she sent an image of a tree bearing various fruits of the Holy Spirit. The picture was entitled, “This Fruit is Always in Season.” The message alluded to government dietary guidelines and invited readers to select five servings of this kind of fruit for the day. Listing her own choices as two servings of patience and one each of joy, faithfulness, and self-control, she then asked recipients of her text message what they would choose. By challenging her friends, Grewal says she is trying both to hold herself accountable and encourage others. “I consider it a kind of ‘mini-evangelization,’” she said. “I don’t expect a long dialogue. I am just hoping to inspire people, as well as myself.”
Through an adaptation of the Jesuit practice called the Examen, Grewal said that she reflects at the end of the day on whether she has met the challenge she set out for herself that morning. “When I’m intentional about it,” she said, “it puts me in a better frame of mind and helps me to focus on what really is important in life. I’m the kind of person that tends to get bogged down in the details of the day, and I struggle sometimes with why I am here. But deep down I know that I have a purpose, and I try to discover that purpose more and more through this simple technique. It’s my own little life hack, because a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Today we celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Epiphany means “manifestation” or “showing forth.” It can be likened to words such as eureka or aha!, turning on a light bulb, or being able to see something that was once hidden from view. Isaiah expressed this when he said, “Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you” (Isaiah 60:5).
The Magi brought gifts to the newborn Christ Child. This is the strong message in stewardship for us; they sought, found, and happily gave Christ beautiful gifts of significance, the best they had to offer: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
But while the Magi gave Jesus their best gifts, their greatest gift comes to us as a realization: They were the first Gentiles to recognize that Jesus belongs to everyone. Truly this Good News is for all, not just a select few. As Saint Paul says, “You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely, that . . . the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:2-3a, 6).
Epiphany is not just a marquee moment; it reminds us that, for God, there are no foreigners or outsiders. Everyone can pray to our Father; there are no exceptions. And if God is the Father of every single person, then every person in this world is our sister or brother. This is a gift from God we can share with everyone.
As stewards, then, let us offer our best gifts to God and others. Let us show the Lord and other people our best, while, like Mary, we take all these things and treasure them in our hearts.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
Saint Brendan Church in San Francisco. Check out our exciting featured news articles.