Stewardship is rooted in service to others. All of today’s readings focus on service, and give many different, uplifting examples.
In the first reading, our father in faith Abraham recognizes his three unexpected guests as a visit from the Lord; some scholars think this is an early appearance of the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament. Abraham invites them to rest in the shade of the great tree, helps prepare a sizeable meal, and waits upon them (Genesis 18:3-10). As a result, Abraham and Sarah are rewarded for their service with a son in their old age.
The psalmist tells us a steward walks the path of righteousness and justice, speaks well of others and doesn’t do them any kind of harm. A steward doesn’t cheat or burden others financially or otherwise, or take bribes from or against anyone (Psalm 15:2-5). If we live our lives in this way, then we will live in peace and in the presence of the Lord.
We can really relate to today’s wonderful Gospel story about Jesus visiting Martha and Mary’s home. Anxious that everything is perfect to welcome and serve Jesus, her special friend and guest, Martha does her best but feels abandoned and overloaded. As a reward, Jesus acknowledges and sympathizes with her worries, and praises Mary for taking time to listen to what he wants to share with them (Luke 10:38-42).
Saint Paul acknowledges his mission as a steward to share God’s word with everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike, and bring it forth to fruition (Colossians 1:24-26). As stewards, we should heed Jesus’ advice, that blessed are they who “have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance” (Luke 8:15). Since we reap what we sow, we can be confident that our efforts are both our harvest and reward.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
Today we kick off a brand new Sunday message series called Bible Oddities. For the next six weeks through the Labor Day weekend, we’ll explore some odd, amazing, fun, and interesting aspects of the Bible that you probably never heard of, as well as some surprising insights into many common misinterpretations of the Good Book.
To get us started on this fascinating journey, here are a few very odd facts about the Bible we found on a popular website that will probably have you scratching your head:
· In 1631, a publishing company published a Bible with the typo “Thou Shalt Commit Adultery.” Only 9 of these Bibles, known as the “Sinners’ Bible” exist today.
· The Bible is not a single work but a collection of works from a wide variety of authors, such as shepherds, kings, farmers, priests, poets, scribes, and fisherman. Authors also include traitors, embezzlers, adulterers, murders, and auditors.
· The longest word in the Bible is “Mahershalalhashbaz (Isaiah 8:3).
· The Bible has inspired more song lyrics than any other book, including “40” by U2, “Adam Raised a Cain” by Bruce Springsteen, “Adam’s Apple” by Aerosmith, “All you Zombies” by The Hooters, “Be Still” by Kelly Clarkson, “Blackened” by Metallica, “Cinnamon Girl” by Prince, “Come Sail Away by Styx, “Every Grain of Sand” by Bob Dylan, “I am God” by Kanye West and many more.
· The Bible is the most commonly stolen book in the world, most likely because it is so available in hotel rooms and places of worship.
· Bob Marley was buried with a stalk of marijuana, his red Gibson Les Paul guitar, and the Holy Bible.
· There are 93 women who speak in the Bible, 49 of whom are named. They speak a total of 14,056 words, or about 1.1 percent of the Bible. There are a total of 188 named women in the Bible.
· The world’s smallest bible can fit on the tip of a pen. Scientists etched the 1.2 million letters of the Old Testament on a tiny silicone disk, which they call the “Nano Bible.”
· The world’s largest Bible weighs 1,094 pounds. Built by Louis Waynai in 1930, the book is 43.5 inches tall and a laid open width of 98 inches.
Test your knowledge of the Bible this Summer. Join us each Sunday for a biblical adventure in discovering what you probably don't know about God's Word.
 Karin Lehnardt, “50 Amazing Bible Facts,” www.factretriever.com/bible-facts.
Proverbs tells us to seek wisdom and insight through our relationships with God and others. If we want wisdom that helps us succeed in life and stewardship, we should surround ourselves with people who are wise, that we trust, and open ourselves to correction and even reproof should we make a misstep along the way. For example, Proverbs offers us the following advice: “Plans fail when there is no counsel, but they succeed when counselors are many” (15:22). “Listen to counsel and receive instruction,” King Solomon advised his son, “that you may eventually become wise” (19:20).
Where do we find such people? We can start with God. Saint Paul calls Jesus “the firstborn of all creation . . . . He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). Indeed, the Son of God is also the Wisdom of God. We can also rely on friends and family members, or fellow parishioners we respect.
We shouldn’t stress about trying to find ways to become wiser. Indeed, our first reading tells us that wisdom is not beyond us or out of our reach (Deuteronomy 30:14). However, listening to advice and accepting it aren’t always easy, especially when our own ideas and choices seem reasonable to us. We might think our idea is the right one, or feel that we are somehow giving in to what someone else thinks, whether we asked for an outside opinion or not. But if we insist that our idea is better, or don’t even consult others on important decisions, we may miss out on receiving some very valuable advice.
Again, if we want to live wisely and make good decisions, we should seek advice, walk with the right people, and change our behavior when we make a wrong turn or poor choice. We know we can trust in God to help us find wise people to learn from, and guide our efforts to share our time, talent, and treasure with others.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
Feeling stuck is one of the worst feelings in the world — when no matter what you do, no matter what new tactic you try or new message you share feels like it strikes the right tone. It’s especially hard for us in this day and age, where there’s an intense expectation for us to always be self-advancing and self-promoting. There’s a huge amount of guilt attached to the feeling of being stuck or not being successful, like somehow something we did or didn’t do could have changed the outcome, when sometimes there’s not a whole lot we can do.
We’ve talked before about how awesome the saints are, and cool it is that the Catholic church recognizes and venerates them in the way that we do. It’s like we have a special army of people loving on us, caring for us, and showing us all kinds of examples of how we might be able to shape our lives. No saint is identical to another, but each of their lives show holiness and commitment to Christ (two things I think we all might be aiming for!). And, the saints had their fair share of trials and tribulations, making them great people to turn to in stuckness.
St. Ignatius of Loyola might be one of the only saints with a notarized police record (for nighttime brawling), but his writings and teachings have become extremely well-known and offer great advice for the “stuckness.” He is the patron saint of soldiers, who often face extremely challenging conditions, and one of his prayers in particular is a good one to remember:
“O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things.”
This prayer’s message of comfort and reassurance feels right for “stuckness”: when we cannot comprehend the larger plan that might be in store for us, we can always take comfort in drawing into the closeness of Christ. Jesus, in his time on Earth, felt the human emotions of anger and confusion and losing one’s way — Ignatius reminds us of that, and that we can always draw into Christ when we feel the same.
St. Dymphna, the patron saint of anxiety and depression, can offer comfort when our minds seem bent on getting us down. Blessed Margaret of Castello can offer comfort when physical ailments take precedence in our lives. St. Jude Thaddeus can offer comfort in “lost causes” or desperate circumstances.
If we were soccer players, and our lives were the World Cup, think of the saints like the fans in the stands. Their energy and enthusiasm keeps us going when we’re down in the match or we’re going up for that game-deciding penalty kick. We can count on them to be our number one supporters, and to always be there for us to get us out of the “stuckness.”
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
Proverbs 3:4-7 tells us to put our trust in the Lord and not depend on our own insight and understanding. When we do so, God promises to make straight our paths. Trusting in God means that we put our lives in his hands and don’t rely solely on our own abilities and talents, though he gave them to us in the first place.
How do we lean or depend on God? Reading and listening to the scriptures, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, and setting aside time to pray and reflect deepen our faith, and strengthen our trust in him. Saint Paul tells us, “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts; let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:15-16).
If we aren’t leaning on God, what are we leaning on? Our society values independence, self-sufficiency, and a “try everything” approach. It’s good for us to take charge of our lives, learn how to do things for ourselves, and not expect other people to do them for us. Self-sufficiency is important as we take on more responsibilities. However, at some point we may think we can do it all ourselves and don’t need an anchor to ground us, or even anyone else for that matter. Perhaps we’ll end up thinking that we are always right in our thoughts and choices. That can be true if our choices are rooted in faith and compassion, but our thoughts may not always be correct, or our actions the most appropriate. Trying everything may not always lead to healthy choices, and we could decide to rely on someone or something else that becomes a crutch.
We want God to make our paths straighter, which he will do for us. As stewards we should trust in him, and he will show us the way to share our time, talent, and treasure with others.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
This week, wisdom from the book of Proverbs talks about the different kinds of people we meet and interact with in our daily lives. It breaks people into one of five categories: the wise, the fool, the simple, the scoffer, and the evil. The way each of these people responds to criticism is one of the critical ways they are separated from each other — the wise person accepts feedback with grace; the simple person does not understand or respond to the feedback; the fool understands the feedback but does not accept it; the scoffer becomes angry at the invitation of feedback; and the wicked person will retaliate in response to feedback.
I feel like I can confidently assume that we’ve all met each of these people at some point in our lives. And, if I’m being honest, I can remember certain times and situations in my life where I have acted in each of the ways noted. While I’d like to say that I have always accepted feedback with grace and changed because of it, I am acutely aware of the times that I have played the part of the fool or the simple person. Hopefully, I’m not alone.
Good leaders are wise individuals who know how to work with people of all kinds, especially those that the Proverbs describe. Looking to history, we can find influential leaders in all sorts of capacities, and through their examples, we might find a story to tell or an action to emulate.
St. Joan of Arc is a great example — a teenage girl with a vision, she convinced the Dauphin to allow her to lead French troops into battle. Her energy and vision helped lift the siege of Orléans in just nine days of fighting; the city had been under attack for over seven months without respite before her arrival. Doing this required that she coordinate with the Duke of Orleans, who would actively exclude her from strategy meetings and attempted to stop her from riding into battle with the soldiers. The Book of Proverbs might call the Duke a wicked person, for his intentional acts of sabotage to her leadership despite the fact that they were fighting for the same cause. Nonetheless, she persisted — and succeeded.
You don’t have to be a saint to be an admirable leader, though. People like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela were catapulted into roles of incredible prominence by virtue of their refusal to remain silent in the face of oppressive regimes. A woman named Nellie Bly became an accidental journalist after writing a scathing letter to the editor of her local paper. She went on to write about labor laws, women’s rights, and political corruption in Mexico. She also had herself committed to a mental institution for 10 days in order to document the appalling conditions. Her report spurred a movement for radical change in the care of the mentally ill.
Being a wise leader means stepping up when necessary, stepping back to allow others onto the platform, and being open to working with difficult people. Prayers of patience, grace, and acceptance help bridge the gaps, and help make us wise, effective leaders and team members.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
I go to a Jesuit university. We are encouraged to let a spirit of service filter into everything we do, from working at the food bank with our professors to spending a morning standing in community against hatred and bigotry. We’re constantly reminded of doing the right thing, of living a life of service, of putting others’ needs before our own. And, I would wager a guess that my university isn’t the only place that constantly reminds its people to do the right thing.
I’ve heard about “doing the right thing” for as long as I can remember — definitely beginning in preschool, though probably before that, with the influence of my parents and siblings. But haven’t we beaten that topic absolutely to death? I’ve been thinking about these questions quite a lot, especially with this week’s message focusing on the importance of remaining on the path of righteousness. So it seems to me that the reason we keep highlighting “everyday heroes” and talking about “doing the right thing” is that it’s hard, and it might actually go against our human nature. We need constant reminders and examples of going against the status quo to remain on the path of righteousness.
Our liturgical tradition is filled with all kinds of people who left everything or gave up everything to do what was right. Many of them we venerate as saints today — saints are built-in examples for us to emulate. Picking a specific saint to learn from and about is a really incredible opportunity for finding a new role model. Go home and look up Thomas of Cana, Rose Philippine Duchesne, or Genevieve. Or, learn more about a saint you might have already heard about — maybe the saint whose name you took for a confirmation name, or the saint whose feast falls on a special day for you.
But the best part of finding examples of people who did the right thing is that they’re not confined to saints or other Catholics. People all over the country and all over the world are doing the right thing, regardless of race, religion, color or creed. A group of teenagers publicly stood up to defend their friends, schools, and communities after a gunman opened fire on their high school last Valentine’s Day. Muslim groups from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area raised over $200,000 for their Jewish neighbors after tragedy struck at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Women in California prisons bravely volunteered to fight the devastating wildfires that ravaged communities close to ours at the end of last year.
So I’m going to end this week with a challenge: go out into the world, and do one thing in service of someone else. Whether it’s buying the coffee for the person behind you in line, or volunteering for a task at home or work you’d normally avoid, live this week as a man or woman with and for others. We’re all in this together, and we’re all going to keep each other accountable to doing the right thing. Because we all get it — the path of righteousness is hard!
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
Proverbs talks about three kinds of people—the wise person, the fool, and the scoffer—and cautions us against some of them (4:10-19). How are they involved in stewardship? I think we would all like to be considered “wise,” which needs no further explanation.
Considering someone a fool, of course, is disparaging. So, understanding such a person can be a challenge. It could be someone who is unaware, unconcerned, or disconnected. Or fools may believe in the good of all, and in their actions to accomplish good for others, but may not always be successful because of their own limitations.
The scoffer, on the other hand, actively shuns stewardship. Scoffers may feel they have nothing to offer anyone, or that their efforts will be useless or ineffective, or even consider acts of charity to be a fool’s errand in the first place.
Our efforts to be good stewards may not always be successful, or even noticeable, but we can still be effective when we become aware of the needs of the world around us, avoid the pitfalls of cynicism and defeatism, and honestly try to give of ourselves. Looking forward in this way, we become wiser and may even sense some success from our efforts, and be motivated to keep trying.
James Pruch, who ministers to college students with his wife Carly, once said faith begets obedience, and obedience proves faith. As we grow in faith and holiness, we become more sanctified and grow in stewardship, which brings us more satisfaction in our special relationship with God, and motivation to follow in his path.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
The proverbs we study this week in our message series, Foolproof, focus on everyone’s favorite topic — money. Money can make us feel awkward, proud, uncomfortable, happy, and pretty much any emotion in between. The proverbs this week, found in the Old Testament, speak about how to be smart with money. Jesus flipped the tables of money-changers in the temple square in Jerusalem while simultaneously inviting tax collectors to be his apostles, and many of the saints we celebrate today are noted for their piety, generosity, and dedication to simple living.
Matthew’s gospel provides an account of the rich young man who asks Jesus what he might do in order to successfully enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus reminds him to keep the Commandments (which the young man says that does), commands him to give away all of his possessions to the poor, and asks him to follow him and his disciples. Upon hearing this, “the young man went away sad, for he had many possessions,” and Jesus says to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for the one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” (Matthew 19:22-24).
Some very popular saints, like Francis and Clare, gave up everything in order to serve their communities, and stories of their generosity and that of those who followed them, prove to be ubiquitous in Catholic tradition. So it’s interesting to find out that there is indeed a patron saint to consult for financial matters: Saint Matthew (yes, the same Matthew whose gospel is full of treatises about money and the importance of generosity). Matthew was a tax collector in Jesus’s time, one of the most (if not the most) despised of all professions. The Pharisees, scribes, and Jewish people at large generally considered them to be liars and cheats, charging more taxes than were truly owed and keeping the difference for themselves.
But Jesus asked that Matthew turn from his tax collecting anyway and become an Apostle, one of his most trusted friends and advisors. This Matthew did. He was honest about his shortcomings and abandoned them for a life in Christ. As the patron saint of bankers, bookkeepers, accountants, and tax collectors, Matthew’s example reminds us to keep our relations with money centered in Christ. His story implores us to spend our money wisely, to be cognizant of the impact our money has on others (negative and positive), and to keep our money dealings respectful, remembering that God is the one true God which we serve and honor (especially as it feels like everything is fiscally-motivated these days).
Prayer to Saint Matthew: Matthew, you acknowledged your relationship with money and admitted your sinful ways in order to turn into the warmth of Christ’s love. Help me to use my money wisely and honorably, that I might too feel the eternal light of God.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
It may sound odd mentioning righteousness and winning with money in the same sentence, but stewardship involves managing our treasure (money) as we travel along our own paths to righteousness.
As stewards, we win with our money when we give our time, talent, and treasure to those we are certain need help. We also win when we give a portion of our gifts to God. Proverbs encourages us to “[h]onor the Lord with [our] wealth” (3:9). On this feast of Corpus Christi, we celebrate Jesus’ sacrificial gift of himself, his body and blood, to us in Communion. After Melchizedek blessed him, Abraham “gave him a tenth of everything” (Gen. 14:20). Saint Paul also reminds us: “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you” (1 Cor. 11:23-25).
If we want to stay on the course to righteousness, we also shouldn’t delay or postpone an opportunity to help someone, whether they reach out to us or not. We don’t win with our money if we postpone giving to a need that motivates us. We aren’t effective stewards if we don’t think we have anything to offer that would help others or their situation.
Stewardship helps keep us on the path to righteousness because when we share our gifts, we are focused on helping others, and aren’t thinking about our own wants and desires.
Again, stewardship isn’t ultimately about giving to a particular need, it’s needing to give, as much and as best we can. Stewardship enables us to win though our efforts, and we move forward along the path of righteousness.
--Jim Wollak, Parishioner
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