Posted by: frroberts | October 11, 2017

Faith and Money

We turn our focus today to worries about money.  While inviting parishioners to confession is no easy task, talking about money has a significantly higher degree of difficulty.  When praying about the homily this week there was little question that the Lord was asking me to address this topic, but as soon as I started preparing, I was filled with anxieties and tempted to preach on something easier.

Doing that would be setting a very bad example by giving into my own fears rather than facing them with faith.

Married couples, at least the ones I know, have some of their worst fights over household finances.  Many, if not most, of the adults sitting in this church today would stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in net worth by a sudden downturn in the stock market or home prices.  Some of us lose sleep over being able to pay the bills or even calls from debt collectors.

The instability of the globalized economy means that there are almost no recession-proof jobs and that corporate right-sizing could mean that even the most productive and loyal employee might find herself looking for a job with only relatively short notice.

Credit cards, student loans and thirty-year mortgages make it easy for us to spend money we don’t have to buy things we really don’t need.  Constant bombardment by unrelenting advertising blitzes wears down our defenses to the temptations of retail therapy, expensive hobbies, frivolous collecting and wasting money on smart phones.

We might even try to overcome fears about the future of the economy, unpaid debts and bouts of impulsive spending by compulsive financial planning.

What does the message of the Gospel have to say to us today about how to be free from budgetary angst ?

The Word of God proclaims,  “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.”

That’s quite a list!  Jesus, the Word by Whom the entire universe was created, has a right to receive back power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor and glory and blessing from His creation.    The list is a poetic way of saying  all things.  Jesus should be the point towards which we order everything in our lives.

Let’s talk about how we order our riches to Christ.

A good starting point is realizing that any wealth that we have does not find its ultimate origin in us.  It is a totally gratuitous gift from Him who created everything from nothing.  None of us can stand before God and plausibly use the word “mine” when it comes to our treasure.  All that we have belongs to Jesus; we are only temporary stewards. If we get this point, we have taken a huge step in the direction of overcoming fears about money.  If we miss this point, we will likely find that even during times of plenty we will still have anxieties about finances.

It would be a good exercise to go through our monthly spending and for every purchase try to say “Jesus and I bought…”  Let’s give it a try.

“I was having a bad day because a parishioner sent a nasty email and Jesus and I went to the Dairy Queen together and bought a large blizzard.”

Perhaps every once in a while that isn’t the worst way to spend money.  But if I did that every time something stressful in the office happened, I wouldn’t be spending my money in a way that glorified God…even if it meant good business for Dairy Queen.

Let’s try another. “Every day at three o’clock Jesus and I go to the Diary Queen to get a large blizzard to take the edge off.”   Now it sounds like some of that money would be better spent on feeding the hungry rather than an ice cream addiction.  It also sounds like there are better ways to handle stress than costly ice cream therapy.

Let’s try one that isn’t about me.  ”I was feeling guilty about my relationship with my son because I work so much, so Jesus and I decided to go out and buy him the most expensive new electronic gadget so I would feel better about myself.”

This one doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?

Maybe this one might be better.  “I was feeling guilty about my relationship with my son because I work so much, so Jesus and I decided that I would take Saturdays off work in order to spend some time with junior serving at the local soup kitchen. ”   We are beginning to see the difference, I hope.

A Christian should never be alone when making decisions about spending money.  Jesus rightfully deserves to be consulted, especially when it comes to our more significant spending decisions.   He also enjoys being consulted about trips to Dairy Queen.  The Bible is right when it says that we should do everything for glory of God.

In a homily that talks about overcoming financial fears giving has to be mentioned.

We don’t give to Church and charity because we happen to have some extra cash that is burning a hole in our pocket.  We shouldn’t give to our local parish only when we hear a well-articulated need that we want to see met.  We give sacrificially as an act of worship to Christ our Redeemer who is present mystically both in the Church and in the least of our brothers and sisters.

Obviously, our giving should always be guided by prudence.  We don’t give money to a beggar who is going to use it for booze.  Nor do we tithe when we know that it will mean losing our house in foreclosure.

In the Old Testament it would be unthinkable for someone to come to worship God without some kind of animal or grain sacrifice.  We find this odd, but these two commodities often played the role then that money does today.  One type of sacrifice was a holocaust or burnt offering that involved the destruction of real wealth as an external sign of interior faith in God.

A holocaust then was kind of like what burning a wad of $100 bills would be today.

The sacrifice of the Cross put an end to the cereal and animal sacrifices of the Old Testament.  Early Christians gave far more than 10%.   They gave all they had to the Church, holding everything in common and distributing what was not necessary to the poor.

In the centuries after the end of Roman persecution, the Church went back to the idea of 10% as the most fitting percentage to be offered in worship to the God Who gives us 100% of what we have.  Even as late as the 16th century excommunication was imposed on Catholics who withheld tithes.

More recently, the government has begun raising tax rates and using tax money to fulfill many functions that were in the past done only by the Church.  This fact muddies the waters considerably when we talk about what constitutes an appropriate level of giving.

The best lesson I have ever been taught about giving came from my father.   One Saturday when I was a boy we went up to see a Notre Dame football game.  The tickets were not cheap, especially for a family of eight with a single income that had a couple of kids in college and one in Catholic grade school.

As we were driving back from South Bend, my dad told me something that I have never forgotten.  “If we as a family can afford going up for Notre Dame football games as often as we do, we really should be giving more on Sundays in the collection.”

My father was right.  Giving back to God generously should take priority over entertainment spending.  If we don’t have to forgo a sporting event or a meal out from time to time in order to give, we probably aren’t giving enough.

We would not be human if we didn’t have fears about our financial security.   In today’s economy many of our fears have at least some basis in reality.  If we try to overcome anxiety about money without recognizing that everything we have is a gift from God, we are bound to fail.  But if we allow Christ to teach us that we are only temporary stewards of His gifts, we will spend money His money differently and know a peace that will allow us to give sacrificially rather than only out of our surplus.


Responses

  1. Good homily Father

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Like


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