31ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Earlier this year, St. Christopher kicked off the With All Your Heart Discipleship program to help grow deeper as a community of disciples grounding our faith in the four pillars of parish life: prayer, service, share and witness. The Heart to Share invites us to seriously consider and commit to share our financial resources to the community.
This Sunday’s Gospel is the familiar story of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, known as the bad guy, disliked by many not so much because of the nature of his job but because of his unjust practices. Apparently, he is just as spiritually curious and needy as many of us are. In fact, in a desperate attempt, he climbed a sycamore tree to take a chance, to get a glimpse of Jesus, reportedly passing down Jericho. That’s quite an effort in an obviously hostile environment. When Jesus took sight of him, he asked him to come down and said “for today, I must stay at your house.” Because of this encounter, his life dramatically changed and in return, he said, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have exhorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”
We may not have the same exact bizarre response as Zach promising to slash half of his assets, however, we are asked to respond with generosity to the ever-growing needs of our community to serve the poor, to form a strong and solid faith foundation to our children, the young, and adults too who need both depth and a 2nd grade refresher, to maintain the physical plant and make it welcoming as best we can, among others. A while back, an embarrassing story happened to me. I am ashamed to share this but since as a preacher, I cause trouble to people’s lives and put myself in hot water, let me say it anyway. I inadvertently forgot to leave a tip in a restaurant. I was already pulling away from the parking lot when the waiter pursued me, “Sir, 15% tip is mandatory here.” This gave me a huge lesson in church giving. If we don't mind the 15% gratuity, get a latte daily, enjoy night- outs on weekends, giving at least 1%, 1.5%, 2%, 3%, 4%, to no more than 5% of our weekly income should be manageable.
The parish Sunday collection has gone into a steady decline. Understandably, various factors have been in play but part of the reason (and I take responsibility for it) is that the pastor hasn’t emphasized much the value of sacrificial giving: giving that hurts. Shopping season is around the corner. You know how it feels when you're dying to get stuff and settle for less for the benefit of the wider community. I do not, in any way, intend to interfere in your social lives/financial affairs nor make you feel guilty about spending habits but only invite you to see if you can give just a little more. Here's the caveat: if you are in deep financial trouble, please disregard this.
I am convinced that a Christian community is built under the flagship of self-less love, humility and generosity. The happiest people I know are the generous people and I'm referring to you! Thank you so much for your support to St. Christopher Parish!