Spending Money on Mission

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

WISDOM 1:13-15; 2:23-24

God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the netherworld on earth, for justice is undying. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.

2 CORINTHIANS 8:7, 9, 13-15

Brothers and sisters: As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you, may you excel in this gracious act also. For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that their abundance may also supply your needs, that there may be equality. As it is written: Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.

MARK 5:21-43

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him. There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

As mentioned two weeks ago, today we’re going to re-examine our financial generosity, because that’s the focus of today’s Second Reading.

However, I had a significant change of heart two weeks ago when my third action item was to ask you to think about increasing your sacrificial generosity.  That Sunday afternoon, I realized: The priority is not for you to increase your sacrificial generosity.  The priority is for me and the leadership of the parish to spend the money we already have on mission!   When I wrote that homily, I was still living out of an old mindset, which said, “If we’re going to spend more money and run a deficit budget, I need to ask for help first.”  But then I understood God’s faithfulness and yours and thought, “No, the parish leadership needs to prove to God and you that we’re willing to take risks for Him and for souls, and once we do, then you can support these initiatives.”

So, I’m actually telling you today that you don’t have to increase your generosity now!  Can you believe this?  The goal of our parish now is to be bolder with the gifts God has given us!  I cannot tell you how happy I feel about this.  I feel so free, knowing that He’ll take care of us!

Nevertheless, we’re still going to examine the Christian understanding of sacrificial giving because that’s the content of the Second Reading, and the time will come when God will ask us to increase it.  The context for the Reading is that St. Paul is writing to the Corinthians, in modern-day Greece, asking their financial support to help Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering: “Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking” (2 Cor 8:7).

First, St. Paul wants the Corinthians to avoid over-spiritualizing our faith.  People might say that faith is about belief in God, love, and other spiritual matters.  But it also affects tangible things.  Let’s say someone prays but doesn’t love their neighbour, or studies theology but doesn’t take care of their health (Thomas D. Stegman, SJ, Second Corinthians in Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture,195-196).  That’s why St. Paul tells the Corinthians that their excellence in spiritual things should carry over into something practical.

Second, the term ‘generous undertaking’ is a loose translation of the word ‘grace,’ which St. Paul uses ten times in this part of his letter.  ‘Grace’ means a favour, the goodwill of a giver, or the gratitude of a receiver; most importantly, it refers to God’s love for us, that He gave us Jesus, Who died and rose for us.  St. Paul is reminding them and us that we’ve received the most important gifts, so we should be generous in giving as well.

Then he points to Jesus’ example of sacrificial generosity: “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was richyet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).  Jesus couldn’t suffer, yet, He took on our humanity and suffered humiliation so that we could share His glory.  Sacrificial giving is part of this: We give up what we could use so that others will benefit.

Then St. Paul gives some practical teaching: “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need… As it is written, ‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little’” (2 Cor 8:13-15).  When we talk about sacrificial generosity, it should hurt, meaning it challenges our current comfort level of giving, but it doesn’t mean it should cause us financial harm.  Here are four steps or levels of generosity that help us grow without putting pressure on ourselves:

1) Planned giving: All generosity starts here, when we choose to designate money in our budget to give to others.

2) Priority giving: As we grow, we give to God first before other expenses.  This is what the Bible means about giving God the ‘first fruits,’ because His mission is the most important mission.  And our parish isn’t the only one sharing in His mission.  If God calls you to help other spiritual missions, please do so!

3) Percentage giving: We don’t give a dollar amount, but a percentage of what God gives us, because He only gives us more so that we can give more.

4) Progressive giving: We increase our sacrifice regularly, if that’s what we discern is God’s call for us (Michael White & Tom Corcoran, Rebuilt, 182).

As we grow in spiritual maturity, we will ascend in these steps.

When St. Paul says, ‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little,’ he’s quoting the Book of Exodus, when the Hebrew people were in the wilderness and God gave them manna from heaven.  God told them to go out every day and collect the manna, and that no one was to collect more than one day’s worth of ration.  Why?  It was to be an act of trust; He would give them their daily bread.  Those who collected much would miraculously have just enough, and those who collected little would also miraculously have just enough.

This is a good opportunity to remind everyone that, if you have a job, then you should give financially.  Even if you’re a student and have some money to buy a Starbucks coffee, you should give.  If you are old enough to get an allowance, you should give.  Don’t just have your parents contribute!  If you have money, make sacrifices with it.  It’s good to start young, since that will prevent greed and selfishness from growing in our hearts.

I want to praise God again for His faithfulness and your generosity!  And please pray that we hire an amazing Director of Evangelization, and start moving on those other hires.  Please pray that we’re bolder with the resources God has already given us.

There’s an amazing Evangelical group with a staff of 24 people that helps churches grow.  They only put three months of operating expenses into the bank and spend the rest on mission.  Their thinking is: If money is just sitting in the bank somewhere, it’s not a good stewardship of God’s resources.  That’s what they tell churches to do as well.  And we are going to aim for mission like this!

This is what’s called the abundance mindset (the more we give, the more we’ll receive), as opposed to the scarcity mindset (I can only give so much because, once I do, there won’t be much left for me).  St. Paul teaches the abundance mindset: “He who supplies seed to the sower… will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness”(2 Cor 9:10).  That’s how God works: The more we spend on His mission, the more He’ll send the resources.

Posted: June 27, 2021

Fr. Justin Huang

 
Fr. Justin grew up in Richmond, BC, the third of three brothers. Though not raised Catholic, he started going to Mass when he was 13. After a powerful experience of God’s love through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he felt called to the Holy Priesthood at the age of 16.


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