Sharing time and talent

Blessing of community:

Our ultimate goal — as families, as communities, as parishes and as one church — is to build up the kingdom of God on earth. By our baptism, we are enlisted in a great effort of discipleship. Our stewardship is how we express that discipleship, and it has the power to change our lives.

Each of us possesses one or more gifts that make us unique and equip us to help others. God calls us to discover and share these talents with those who need us. We should throw ourselves into this work with abandon. In his first letter, Peter writes, “Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

Gifts of money do not substitute for gifts of talent. Each of us is unique, and cannot be replaced. Likewise, our gifts cannot be replaced.

Think of how far the Catholic Church has come in 2,000 years. Then think of how much remains to be done. How many people are hungry, homeless, naked, depressed or ill. Worst of all, think of how many people are unchurched — as much as half the population of South Carolina according to some studies. The Catholic Church has a wonderful tradition of service. It is up to us to carry on that tradition. Let it be a tradition of service.

Consider giving 10 hours each month to parish ministries, community work, or some other kind of social service. That would represent 1.4 percent of your time.

We must ask ourselves: Do we wish to be disciples of Jesus Christ and Christian stewards of our world and our church? Lord, if not us, who? If not here, where? If not now, when? If not for the kingdom of God, why?

Blessing of prayer:

If we are to undergo a conversion to a life of discipleship, we must seek that conversion through prayer. The gift of prayer is given to us so that we might approach God more closely. We use prayer to seek the communion of the saints. We use prayer to seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin on our behalf.

If prayer is a gift from God, than we must be good stewards of it, like all of our other gifts. We must set aside time to pray, allotting ourselves an opportunity to seek God.

Prayer is an intimate connection, which can only be established through diligence and dedication. Just as we would make an appointment with a doctor, we must make an appointment with the Lord to pray.

The moments we spend in structured prayer — Mass, the rosary, novenas, grace before meals — are necessary for drawing us into a deeper relationship with God. There are other ways to achieve a lasting friendship with God. Any thought can become a prayer when it is offered through love and gratitude toward God.

We pray for God’s presence in our lives. We pray for God’s guiding hand to influence us, for God to carry us in times of need and for God to multiply our blessings when we use our gifts to honor him. We grow closer to God because we accept his will.

Make a commitment to spend seven minutes every day in prayer, aside from Mass. That would be less than one-half of 1 percent of your time.

Blessing of sharing…

Of all the gifts that God gives us, none can really be considered ours. God has given us our treasure and possessions, not so that we can become richer, but so that we can enrich the world around us. We are managers of God’s treasure.

Just because God gives more treasure to us than to our neighbor, that does not mean that God wants us to be richer. Such a viewpoint would suggest that God favors us more, when we know God loves us all equally. God gives us that excess so that we can share it with those in need.

We are called to model God’s giving by not placing any conditions or restrictions on our gifts. Sacrificial giving is simply an act of faith. By giving as much of ourselves as we can, we demonstrate our faith in God. We must love God with abandon — almost recklessly —leaping off into the great unknown, trusting in God to catch us.

We should give not from our abundance, our excess, but from our substance. This way, we acknowledge that we are dependent on God.

Sharing is the culmination of our any blessings. Through the blessing of prayer we invite God into our hearts, and seek to divine His plan for us. Through the blessing of community, we join in faith with a group of people. We learn where our gifts can be best applied.

Finally, we must act. We should share our gifts justly and charitably, where we feel it will do the most good.

Sacrificial giving should be a family decision. The steps of praying and involving ourselves in the community should all be taken by our entire family. In particular, we must educate our children on this attitude. They will be caring for the world and its people after we are gone.

The Bible speaks on the importance of tithing, quoting the figure of one-tenth of our income. For many this represents a distant goal; for a fortunate few, it represents a step backward. The real intent should be to improve our performance over time.

When we get a raise, God should get a raise. When a particular level of giving becomes comfortable or easy, we should seek a higher challenge. One popular guideline suggests that we give 5 percent of our income to our parish, 2 percent to our diocese and 3 percent to others.

The important thing is that our gift be representative of a true Christian commitment: “Each of you with as much as he can give, in proportion to the blessings which the Lord, your God, has bestowed on you.” (Deuteronomy 16:17)