May 02, 2021 – Tithing While Angry

5th Sunday of Easter, Year B
Annual Catholic Appeal Homily

Readings || Lecturas

Recording [10:00 a.m. Mass]

Video [5:00 p.m. Mass]

Preached at Assumption Parish in Bellingham, WA

NB: At this time, I started experimenting with preaching from an outline rather than a script. You can read my discussion of this change in our parish bulletin from this week. For these “published” homilies, I will provide my draft text, which is not at all guaranteed to mirror the actually preached homily.

English (Outline)

  • Bi-Annual Tithing Homily
    • Tithing is far less about the worthiness of the causes and far more about the fact that giving our money away is good for us.
    • Percentage of income to give away, rule of thirds or rule of halves
  • Annual Catholic Appeal is silly
    • Ministries are important
    • Silly because it turns annual expenses into an extraordinary fundraiser
    • We are not going to do all of the things.
    • I am proud of our parish because last year we did not make a big deal about this, and we went $5,000 ahead of goal.
  • Spiritual Lesson for this year: Giving to the Church helps us remain faithful
    • Lots of anger at Seattle and Rome, may make us want to stop giving
    • Story about Ed Condon
    • Direct relationship between picking and choosing what we like about the faith and varying our financial giving based on what we like/do not like about the Seattle/Rome
    • Is our church a store or a family?
      • What does it take to go to a different restaurant or store?
      • What does is take to abandon our parents in their old age?
      • We give to our bishop and pope always because they are our fathers, not because we like them or even support them.
    • Gospel connection:
      • Can we really say we are connected to the vine if we separate ourselves from the bishops and the Pope?
      • Can we really say we support them morally if we do not support them financially?
  • “Like tithing, supporting our parish, diocese, and Pope is not about how much we love or do not love our parish, diocese, and Pope. It is a spiritual practice that increases our faith. If we stick with our parish, diocese, and Pope in the good times and the bad, it fortifies us to stick with our faith in the good times and the bad, and to stick with God, even when he feels absent or when we are mad at him. It teaches us that our membership in the family of the Church has nothing to do with what we get out of it, or how holy the Church is at a given moment, and everything to do with our desire to be faithful to Jesus.”

English (Draft Text)

Well, my friends, in another return to normalcy, today we get to talk about tithing. As I have mentioned before, I will preach on tithing twice, and only twice, every year. Once in November related to parish giving and once in the Spring related to the Annual Catholic Appeal.

And my message every time is the same: tithing is far less about the worthiness of the causes and far more about the fact that giving our money away is good for us. Money can be a powerful corrupting influence. In order to protect ourselves from the corrupting influence of money, we have to develop a deeply ingrained practice of giving it away. It should be natural and automatic for us to believe that some percentage of our income does not belong to us but belongs to people we have an obligation to support, namely, the poor and the Church. My rule of thumb remains the same: look at your tax return, determine what your annual income is, and then decide on a percentage. Even if we all aim for 10%, start at 1 or 2% and work up from there over the years. And then, whatever amount that might be, give it away. Personally, I give a third to my parish, a third to the Archdiocese, and a third to other worthy causes. I believe Fr. Scott’s rule was half to the parish and half to other causes, which included the archdiocese. For capital and one-time campaigns like Called to Serve as Christ, that money is in addition to my normal percentage. Know your income, set a percentage, give it away. It is healthy and will lead you to holiness.


Now, let’s talk about the Annual Catholic Appeal specifically. Personally, I think it is silly and I resent it, and I have on multiple occasions told that to the well-meaning people in Seattle who run this campaign. The reason I think it is silly is not because I think any of the causes that the Appeal supports are silly – far from it! Youth and young adult ministries, summer camps, pastoral care, clergy support: all of these are incredibly important ministries. No, the reason I think the Annual Catholic Appeal is silly is because it turns annual expenses into this extraordinary fundraising push. You should see the recommended activities list we get from the chancery. Over the course of 5 weeks we are supposed to have one pastor homily, two guest speakers, a half-dozen bulletin inserts and what feels like a gazillion mailings. Like, I get that these are important ministries, but this thing happens every year. We do not need to focus on it for a full 10% of our yearly Sunday Masses. So I preach on it once, we do a couple of Mass announcements, a couple of mailings, and we call it good. (I can say from personal experience that the mailings are necessary – this is the first year in my decade of giving to the diocese that I responded to the first letter. Usually I keep forgetting until June.)

And I do want to take this opportunity to say how proud I am of our parish for how things went last year. Because last year, we did the same thing. Preach once, mention it a few times, but no need to make a big deal out of the whole thing. And guess what? We made our Annual Catholic Appeal goal with three thousand to spare, something we had not done the year before. I am proud of you because I mentioned the need and you fulfilled the need, no begging or nagging required. So I will make the same deal with you this year: if we can just knock this thing out, we can talk about other, more important things with our time together. But if that was a COVID fluke, I am not above nagging. Don’t test me. The diocese would like us to run the ACA like a fun and exciting campaign, to build energy around diocesan ministry, but legally it is a tax. If we do not make our goal, the remainder comes out of our parish budget, and that is a check I would prefer not to write.


Now, because tithing is a spiritual practice, there is a spiritual lesson I would like to address in this tithing homily, and that is the idea of giving money to entities that disappoint us or make us angry. In the early months of the lock down, I heard from a lot of people who were angry at the bishop and angry at the diocese for how they responded to COVID, and I have to imagine that not all of this angry has dissipated by now. And course, there continues to be deep, visceral anger regarding the history of child sexual abuse in the church, even though our own Archdiocese was one of the first the address it in the 1980s, decades before much of the rest of the country. And with this anger often comes the knee-jerk reactionary decision to express distaste by withholding any sort of financial support.

I want to address this by talking about a guy named Dr. Ed Condon. Dr. Condon is a fascinating man. He is an American by birth, who spent much of his adolescence in the U.K., eventually working for members of the U.K. parliament. However, when Pope Benedict XVI addressed the U.K. parliament, Dr. Condon felt so convicted by the Pope’s speech that he quit politics and get a doctorate in canon law. Eventually, he found himself hired by the Catholic News Agency as a journalist right when the Theodore McCarrick news was about the break, a news story he was instrumental in bringing to light. It was also Ed Condon who did the investigations which led to the deep and horrifying network of financial corruption at the Vatican being exposed for the world to see. Ed Condon has almost singlehandedly exposed the worst corruptions in the American and Roman churches and he is showing no signs of stopping. And yet, in the midst of all of this investigation, as he was describing yet another Vatican financial scandal on his weekly podcast, he said that nothing he learned has ever once tempted him to stop giving to his diocese or to Peter’s Pence (the Vatican version of the Annual Catholic Appeal). The man lives in the diocese that funded Theodore McCarrick’s slush fund for goodness’ sake. He has exposed hundreds of millions of Euros of Peter’s Pence being misappropriated. He knows, for a fact and exactly how, his money is being misused, and yet he has never stopped giving it.

Why? Because in the mind of Dr. Ed Condon, the Church remains a divine institution, even when its human elements become corrupt. We will always have an obligation to support our bishops and our popes, even if they are bad bishops and bad popes.

Now, for some of us, this feels like being held hostage, like a toxic relationship that we can never escape. It feels, in a word, disgusting. But remember what I said about tithing – it is far more about its effect on us that it is about the recipients of the money. Tithing helps us fight greed. Well, then let me add a corollary – when it comes to tithing to the Church, the spiritual benefit is increased faith.

I will explain this through another analogy – every pastor of Assumption since our first pastor, Fr. Boulet, has been deeply saddened by the split between Assumption and Sacred Heart that happened in 1905. This is not because we do not love or respect the parishioner of Sacred Heart, it is because having two churches so close to each other breeds a culture of consumerism. When someone does not like is happening at Assumption, they switch to Sacred Heart; and if they do not like Sacred Heart, they switch to Assumption. Every change of pastor at either church sees a flow of parishioners jumping between the two. Of course, it is hard to fault people for their preferences regarding liturgy, music, or even preaching style. But it makes it very difficult for the pastors at either church to challenge their people to grow because, rather than engage with the challenge, our people can easily just switch to a different church. To Fr. Ross’s great and eternal credit, he is insistent that he and I talk over every major change or decision at either of our parishes, to make sure we present a united front and do not create a culture of competition or dissent between the two parishes. The rivalry between our two parishes is often overplayed but pay attention to the spiritual effect it has: we become consumers at our parishes who are shopping for a product. It makes it impossible for our parishes to become like families, where we stick with each other through thick and through thin.

Now think about this in terms of money: if we are especially quick to stop giving money in support of our bishop or our pope, are we not also creating within ourselves this culture of consumerism? Do we think of our diocese like a store or like a family? If I do not like the pants on offer at Macy’s, I will head over to J.C.Penney’s without a shred of guilt. That is the store mentality. But what would it take for me to refuse to support my parents in their old age? No matter how imperfect our parents are, or how many times they may have disappointed us over our lives, no one refuses to help their mom or their dad without realizing what a grave and profound decision that is. That is the family mentality. As Catholics, we are morally obligated to avoid formal or immediate material cooperation in evil, which means that if someone is doing something evil, we cannot assent to that evil or participate in that evil. If our diocese were funding abortions or paying to send someone to the electric chair, yes, maybe things would be grave enough to withhold funds. But if we decide that, because we are disappointed with our archbishop because he was forced to make a hard decision and decided opposite how we would have decided, that is not a reason to not support him. Our bishop is our father, and the Archdiocese is how he carries out his ministry. Of course we continue to support our father, through thick and through this, because that is what families do, and we Catholics are a family of faith, united in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Español

Hoy se supone que voy a hablar de la Petición Católica Anual. En caso de que no lo recuerde, la Petición Católica Anual es nuestra oportunidad anual para participar y ayudar a financiar los ministerios de nuestro Arzobispo y nuestra Arquidiócesis. El dinero de esta petición se destina al ministerio de jóvenes y adultos jóvenes, ministerio de hospitales, ministerio de cárceles, educación y apoyo para sacerdotes y muchas otras cosas. Son cosas importantes y debemos contribuir todos los años.

Sin embargo, creo que en esta Misa me gustaría hablar sobre el diezmo en general.

Primero, el diezmo es importante porque el dinero es una fuerza poderosa que a menudo puede corromper nuestros corazones y llevarlos a la codicia. Para protegernos de la codicia, tenemos que tener el hábito de regalar parte de nuestro dinero todos los años. Solo al regalar algo de dinero automáticamente aprendemos a ser generosos.

Piense, por ejemplo, en trabajar cuarenta horas a la semana. Si decidimos guardar todo el dinero de todas esas horas solo para nosotros, comenzamos a tener una actitud posesiva, una actitud que busca adquirir más y más cosas. Pero si regalamos la primera hora o las dos primeras horas de trabajo cada semana, recordemos que todo lo que tenemos es un regalo y todo lo que hacemos es un regalo. Es como comenzar nuestras comidas con una oración o hablar con sus hijos, padres o cónyuge cuando llega a casa. Empezar por concentrarte en otra persona te hace cariñoso y generoso.

Entonces yo diría que todos deberíamos dedicarle al menos una hora de trabajo a Dios cada semana. Una hora no es demasiado difícil ni demasiado para ninguno de nosotros. Para aquellos de nosotros que tenemos tiempo y no dinero, eso parecería una hora de servicio a la Iglesia cada semana, tal vez ayudando en la Misa, tal vez trabajando en nuestros jardines, tal vez dando una clase. Para aquellos de nosotros con dinero pero sin tiempo, eso significaría que nuestro ingreso de la primera hora de trabajo cada semana se le daría a la iglesia. Si gano quince dólares por hora, debería dar quince dólares a la iglesia cada semana. ¿Podemos darle a Dios una hora de trabajo cada semana? Creo que podemos.


En segundo lugar, me gustaría hablar sobre el registro parroquial y los sobres. ¿Por qué creo que es importante registrarse en la parroquia? ¿Por qué creo que es importante usar sobres para que la parroquia sepa cuánto está dando cada semana?

Es la diferencia entre ser un invitado y ser un anfitrión. Si eres huésped de una casa y te invitan a cenar, tal vez traigas algo de comida para compartir, tal vez no. Pero el anfitrión nunca espera que limpies la casa de antemano o que laves los platos después. El invitado está allí para ser atendido por el anfitrión. Sin embargo, si vives en una casa que aloja, ayudas a prepararte: aspiras, limpias, cocinas, te preparas. Y cuando los invitados terminen, se espera que todos los miembros de la casa ayuden a limpiar.

Entonces, ¿sois invitados en esta parroquia o sois miembros de la familia? ¿Nos perteneces o no nos perteneces? Porque los miembros del hogar ayudan.

A veces escucho a la gente decir que lo que dan es entre ellos y Dios, pero esto no es cierto. Nunca escuché a un padre decirle a sus hijos: “Solo ayuden como quieran. No me importa y no lo comprobaré “. ¡No! ¡No es así como sucede! Si una madre les dice a sus hijos que necesita ayuda para limpiar, ¿lo va a comprobar? Sí, lo va a comprobar. Cuando los niños viven en un hogar, se espera que ayuden o que paguen el alquiler. Nadie dice: “No nos importa si usted ayuda. Puedes vivir aquí gratis y no hacer nada “. No es así como funcionan los hogares.

La iglesia es una familia, esta parroquia es una familia y quiero que nuestros feligreses hispanos se sientan miembros de pleno derecho de esa familia. He hecho todo lo posible para empoderar a nuestros feligreses hispanos, creando una comisión hispana y permitiendo que la comunidad hispana tenga la libertad de planificar sus propios eventos, hacer sus propias solicitudes y ser miembros de pleno derecho de esta familia. Pero para disfrutar de los derechos y privilegios de ser un miembro de pleno derecho del hogar, tenemos que colaborar, y es importante que los padres del hogar sepan que estamos colaborando. Es importante que las personas se registren y utilicen sobres con sus nombres en ellos.

A finales de este año, voy a implementar un programa llamado “Socios en la misión” donde todos los que dan una hora de trabajo a la parroquia cada semana, ya sea de tiempo o de dinero, se consideran socios en la misión. Estos socios en la misión ya no tendrán que pagar por cosas como bodas, funerales o quinceañeras, y estoy considerando que no paguen por las clases de preparación sacramental. Porque un miembro del hogar no debería tener que pagar para recibir los beneficios de ser parte de una familia si ya está contribuyendo a la vida de esa familia. Pero para que esto funcione, necesitaremos saber quién es socio y quién no.


Amigos míos, he visto la generosidad de la comunidad hispana, en Skagit Valley y aquí en Bellingham. Los hispanos son muy, muy generosos con su tiempo y sus recursos, especialmente cuando se trata de la familia. A menudo más que la comunidad anglosajona. A menudo más dispuesto a hacer sacrificios. Mi esperanza es que nuestra comunidad hispana aquí en Assumption aprenda a ver a esta parroquia como su familia. Es mi responsabilidad tratar a todos como miembros de la familia, pero también es responsabilidad de los miembros de la familia asegurarse de que estén ayudando a su familia con sus necesidades diarias.

Español (Original English)

Today I am supposed to talk about la Petición Católica Anual. In case you do not remember, la Petición Católica Annual is our annual opportunity to participate in and help fund the ministries of our Archbishop and our Archdiocese. The money from this petición goes toward youth and young adult ministry, hospital ministry, jail ministry, priest education and support and many other things. They are important things, and we should contribute every year.

However, I think at this Mass I would instead like to talk about tithing in general.

First, tithing is important because money is a powerful force that can often corrupt our hearts and lead them to greed. In order to protect ourselves from greed, we have to have a habit of giving some of our money away every year. It is only by automatically giving some money away that we learn to be generous.

Think, for example, about working for forty hours every week. If we decide to keep all of the money from all of those hours for ourselves only, we begin to have a possessive attitude, an attitude that seeks to acquire more and more things. But if we give away the first hour or the first two hours of work each week, remind ourselves that everything we have is a gift and everything we do is a gift. It is like starting our meals with a prayer, or talking to your children, parents, or spouse when you come home. Starting out by focusing on someone else makes you loving and generous.

So I would say that all of us should be giving at least an hour of work to God every week. One hour is not too hard or too much for any of us. For those of us who have time and not money, that would look like an hour of service to the Church every week, maybe helping at Mass, maybe working in our gardens, maybe teaching a class. For those of us with money but not time, that would mean that our income from the first hour of work each week would be given to the church. If I make fifteen dollars per hour, I should give fifteen dollars to the church every week. Can we given God one hour of work each week? I think we can.


Second, I would like to talk about parish registration and envelopes. Why do I think it is important to register at the parish? Why do I think it is important to use envelopes so that the parish knows how much you are giving each week?

It is the difference between being a guest and being a host. If you are a guest in a house and you are invited over to dinner, maybe you bring some food to share, maybe you do not. But the host never expects you to clean the house beforehand or to do the dishes afterwards. The guest is there to be served by the host. However, if you live in a house that is hosting, you help prepare – you vacuum, you clean, you cook, you get ready. And when the guests are done, the members of the house are all expected to help clean.

So are you guests at this parish or are you members of the household? Do you belong to us, or do you not belong to us? Because members of the household help out.

Sometimes I hear people say that what they give is between them and God, but this is not true. I have never heard a parent tell their children, “Just help however you want. I do not care and I will not check.” No! This is not how it happens! If a mother tells her children that she needs help cleaning, is she going to check? Yes, she is going to check. When children live in a household, they are expected to help out or they are expected to pay rent. No one says, “We do not care if you help. You can live here for free and do nothing.” That is not how households work.

The church is a family, this parish is a family, and I want our Hispanic parishioners to feel like they are full members of that family. I have done everything I can to empower our Hispanic parishioners, creating a Hispanic commission, and letting the Hispanic community have the freedom to plan their own events, make their own requests, and be full members of this household. But to enjoy the rights and privileges of being a full member of the household, we have to pitch in, and it is important for the parents of the household to know that we are pitching in. It is important the people register and that they use envelopes with their names on them.

Later this year, I am going to implement a program called “Partners in Mission” where everyone who gives an hour of work to the parish every week, either of time or money, is considered a Partner in Mission. These Partners in Mission will no longer have to pay for things like weddings, funerals, or quinceaneras, and I am considering not having them pay for sacramental preparation classes. Because member of the household should not have to pay to receive the benefits of being part of a family if they are already contributing to that family’s life. But in order for this to work, we will need to know who is a partner and who is not.


My friends, I have seen the generosity of the Hispanic community, in the Skagit Valley and here in Bellingham. Hispanics are very, very generous with their time and their resources, especially when it comes to family. Often more so than the Anglo community. Often more willing to make sacrifices. My hope is that our Hispanic community here at Assumption will learn to see this parish as their family. It is my responsibility to treat everyone as members of the family, but it is also the responsibility of the members of the family to make sure they are helping their family with their daily needs.

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