You Can Do Hard Things Wk 5: Prioritizing God
Advent is only 2 weeks away. That is why our readings for Sunday Mass changed so dramatically the last couple of weeks into talking about the end times. Advent is a time of dual preparation, both for the birth of Jesus Christ but also for his second coming at the end of days. All the readings for today point toward preparation and Jesus’ Second Coming. Our readings offer a sobering reminder that this life, on earth, is not our ultimate aim, and that God’s justice will triumph in the end. Now is the time to get our priorities in order, putting God first above all else.
This theme of right priorities is rolled out in no uncertain terms from the first verse of our first reading from Malachi. “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble and the day that is coming will set them on fire.”
But, there is good news for those who are faithful. “For you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” All the trials, any sufferings, or injustices we endure for the sake of the gospel, will be healed, and we will be rewarded in the end by our loving God who cannot be outdone in generosity.
St. Paul tells us we need to be models of good stewardship. Being a good steward involves action, not just sitting around saying someone else can do what we should be doing. A responsible steward, in the Catholic faith, means to see everything you’ve been given as a gift. In the Bible (Matthew 25:14-20), you’re encouraged to return to God, with increase, what you’ve been given. That demonstrates that God is first in our lives.
Stewardship is a means to bring us closer to the Lord. We spoke a few weeks ago about how good financial stewardship, giving back to the Lord to the best of our ability, is a holy exchange of gifts. God gives you the best he has to give, in the gift of his Son, and asks us to give the best we have to give. That is a holy exchange that brings us closer to the Lord, helping us to grow in holiness.
Jesus brings home the urgency of right priorities in the gospel, reminding the people around him who were looking at the temple nearby, “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Everything in this world is fleeting, our Lord reminds us. We must keep our focus on eternity.
Yet, before the eternal bliss of heaven, we should expect to be tried and tested. “Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.” Sounds scary. But if you are living a stewardship way of life, giving the best we have to give to the Lord, there is nothing to fear. You have a plan in place. All you need to do is stick with it.
Put our Lord first in your lifetime, especially through your use of your finances, making God first in that area. That will help you to grow exponentially in your faith, and demonstrate that God is first in your life. This way of life is not meant to be easy. But you can do hard things. Jesus promises it will lead to eternal salvation and the joy of union with him. Commit to a good stewardship plan and persevere with it. The gospel clearly states: “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Each of us builds up the Church by returning a portion of God’s gifts, by returning the gift of our financial resources through the weekly offertory. Good stewards plan their giving in advance according to what they plan to earn. Simply put, good Catholic stewards, like yourselves, give as an expression of your gratitude to God for the gifts he entrusts to you.
Here is some other good news. If you are 70 1/2 or older, and have an IRA, you probably know you must begin taking distributions from your IRA — whether you want to or not.
It may be possible for you to save a significant amount on your taxes. If you are 70 1/2 or older, and you make charitable contributions throughout the year, it may be wise to consider making those contributions directly from your IRA. Up to $100,000 of charitable distributions from each IRA owner’s accounts can be excluded from your taxable income each year.
We have these flyers in the entry way of the church explaining that and explaining how to do it. If someone prepares your taxes, you will be happy you asked them about this.
People do ask: “How much should I give?
This is what we suggest. The biblical tithe is to give 10% of your gross income back to the Lord. It comes off the top because we want God to be our priority. So we give to God first. What we suggest to people is to plan to give 5% to our church, 1% to our diocese through supporting CSA and 4% to the charity of your choice.
You know you have become a sacrificial giver when the offering that you place before the altar fully expresses your gratitude. Perhaps your long-term desire is to return at least 5% back to God through the parish offertory. If you find yourself at 2% now, consider taking a step to become a 5% steward. Here Is a very easy formula for figuring out 5 %
For households earning $34,000 annually, your 5% weekly offering would be $34. With annual income of $57,000, your 5% weekly offering would be $57. And, for those with annual earnings of $72,000, a weekly offering would be $72, etc. Trust God, and take that step.
Maybe, you are at a 5% level or above already. Thank you for that. Can you take the next step whatever it may be. I am going to do that. Maybe you can too. It will be our holy exchange, our path to growth in holiness between us and the Lord.
We are going to take a few minutes now. . . FILL OUT NEXT STEP CARD ETC. Make sure to include what you want us to pray for. There is a special place on your card for that. So even if you have filled one out already, please take a minute and write down how you would like me and our staff to pray for you. Then drop the card in our offertory basket as our ushers take up the collection today.
Conclusion: Prioritizing and putting God first in your life is not easy with all the temptations in the world to put other things or people first. Putting God first is a complete way of life, including our finances. Sharing the gift of your finances so that we have the funds as a church to share the gift of our faith, can seem hard because it probably requires you to step outside of your comfort zone, but you can do hard things. Thank you for your generosity.