Don't you find it interesting to see how early we learn to say, “It’s mine!” When I see small 3 or 4 year old children with food or a toy, I sometimes like to tease them a little by saying, “Thank you – is that for me?” Of course, 99% of the time the answer is ‘No! It’s mine!”
But there is a person we have all seen who teaches us a different way – a revolutionary way – of looking at things. It’s a way that contradicts that natural inclination we have to protect what is ours and not to share – the “it’s mine” instinct we see in small children. That person is our Mom – the mothers we see around us.
How many times does a mother literally die to her desire to have her time, her life, her body or comforts? Let’s face it – from the moment of pregnancy a mother dies to herself. Throughout her life she dies to herself in varied and different ways. Maybe this is the reason that we always return to our mother eventually in life.
I soon as I came back to the Church when I was 17, I was blessed to find Pro Ecclesia Sandra. And it was there that I had the chance to experience the same kind of love that I was describing a moment ago – a mother’s love. And because I recognized that love, I kept coming back to the Sunday Mass every week. It was the same with the sacrament of confession. It became a more and more frequent practice for me because I recognized this special love there. I started receiving spiritual direction with one of the brothers, and found the same love there. It kept me coming back. There is something very attractive in witnessing brothers, sisters, priests and lay members welcoming you, giving their time, talents and love to make you feel at home. It was that experience of love that trained my heart, little by little, like my Mom did in the early days of my life, to experience the joy of giving more than receiving.
At that parish I attended as a young man on Sunday, I noticed that as soon as I entered, people were greeting me warmly. There were many altar servers and ushers, a large choir, lots of brothers and sisters, crowds of children going to Sunday School, and many generous catechists and volunteers. I remember that every Sunday there were long lines for the confessional – with two young priests there more than an hour before Mass, trying to hear the confessions of all those in line. As one point I had the job of telling people that Father had to leave the confessional to begin Mass, and could they please come after the Mass. It all made a deep impression on me.
Bothers and sisters, those experiences made such a deep impression on my life that I decided to become one of them, and with the grace of God, started to experience the joy of giving myself. I am always learning and always growing.
And guess what? The same thing is happening here at St Marks. Not just in one or two members of this family (yes, you are a member), but in many souls. Many of those numbers we saw in our Annual Report last weekend – all of those people participating in our ministries and apostolates – are souls who are experiencing conversion, like I did. It’s not just happening on Sunday – it’s happening in beautiful ways every day of the week. Lives are being changed.
How can we be indifferent to what God is doing in the members of our family? This weekend is a weekend when we need to answer God in prayer: how selflessdo I want to be with my family? How generous? How badly do I want members of my family to receive God, through this family of St Mark’s? God wants us to be a Strong Family. We are His family, but the transforming power of His love in a parish only happens if we all say “yes” with generosity, like our Mother Mary. She gave us what was most precious to her – her Son. How much are we willing to love? How much are you willing to love?
Last week we shared with you the Annual Report of the parish, in which you saw our financial situation, but more importantly, the number of people who come every month to receive the sacraments, attend our apostolates, ministries and events. There is a lot going on my bothers and sisters. These numbers are souls that are in the process of conversion or are already getting to know the Lord, serving Him and loving Him. This is the exiting part: ONE SOUL of those many is what matters for all our efforts. You know how difficult it is to bring one to Mass or to confession. Well, it is already happening – right here in front of us. We can’t be indifferent. God expects our generosity.
This Stewardship Sunday I want to remind you that what the Lord is already doing in your hearts is stewardship. You are entrusting your hearts and your families to Him more and more. And yes, it is happening in this parish family. This is your family - this is the place the Lord is providing for all of us to encounter Him. This Parish is provides the care of baptism for our babies, and for all of the other sacraments, until the moment of our funeral and even more. This family will pray as we are today 125 years from now – for the repose of your soul and for those we love. Isn’t that amazing?
How are we going to respond to such a great care – such great love? Well this weekend is called Stewardship Weekend because God is asking all of us to stop and pray about what kind of care we are going to show our family in the new year. We can all write history here – the story of how, even in difficult times, we supported our parish family and helped it to grow to the point that it became a role model for other parishes in the Archdiocese… or we can turn away with indifference. We are not an indifferent family, and this place that provides all we need for our salvation and the salvation of our loved ones deserves our response. It deserves our generosity.