5th Sunday of Easter, Year C
Also Annual Catholic Appeal roll-out weekend. Pledges can be made here.
Previous Years: 2019
Preached at Assumption Parish in Bellingham, WA
English Recording & Transcript
[00:00:03] Well, this weekend is Annual Catholic Appeal rollout weekend. So get pumped. First, what is the Annual Catholic Appeal? Every diocese has to fund its central ministries. We as a parish fund our local ministries, and then the diocese has to fund its central ministries. The mechanism by which that happens in the Code of Canon Law is primarily a tax on the parishes and other ecclesiastical institutions. So everything that is part of the Archdiocese of Seattle is taxed by the chancery to fund chancery operations. Essentially, we have an income tax on every dollar that we bring in and a certain percentage of that goes down to Seattle. Well, that income tax can get expensive. So a few decades ago, the archdiocese and many other dioceses around the country decided that in order to lighten the burden on the parish budgets, they would take all of their really appealing ministries and they would package them together. So things like seminarian support, youth rallies, social justice concerns, all of the public helpful ministries that are visible and that people really care about. They would take all of those, and instead of funding them via the tax on parishes, they would fund them via a campaign that all the parishes would roll out each year. Some dioceses, it’s called the Bishops Appeal; in ours it’s the annual Catholic Appeal. The idea being, if I can get up here and tell you about all of the exciting things that the archdiocese does – and apparently centralized HR is not as exciting, so that has to be covered by the tax. But if I can tell you all of the exciting things that the archdiocese does, you will get excited to fund the archdiocese and then you can give money directly to the archdiocese instead of it having to go through the parish budget. So it lightens the burden on the parishes. You get to feel like you’re directly involved. It’s a win-win.
[00:02:24] My argument, though, is it’s not a win-win when you do it for 25 or 30 years straight because it gets a little less appealing. It’s fine. It’s early in the morning, so it’s hard for me to get up year after year and make it this big production. The diocese wants me to talk about it for four or five weeks straight, bring in witness speakers. I just don’t find that helpful or necessary. Instead, I have a very solid policy at this parish about treating our parishioners like adults. So that’s why I don’t repeat things in the bulletin, because you have to remind kids 20 times to put their shoes on, but that’s not how you treat adults. Similarly, we know that we have to help fund the ministries of our bishop. We know that. And so I don’t like to put on a big song and dance dog and pony show.
[00:03:16] Instead, I simply like to talk about the need to give with our parishioners and ask you to help us meet that need. Our parish does have a goal. We do have to make that goal. Anything above that goal comes back to the parish. Anything below that goal is taxed from the parish. We have to pay the difference for that goal. Well, I’ve done this the last two years. No dog and pony show. Talk about it once. Call it good. And amazingly, you folks are amazing. We made our goal. No problem. Didn’t have to do a whole thing. Didn’t have to do witness speakers. We just we just did it. I’m proud of you for so many things. But I was just proud. I was just like, Oh, this is awesome. Like, our parishioners just get it. And I was very happy about that. So that’s my bargain to you again this year. If we talk about it once and it looks like we’re going to make our goal, we don’t have to talk about it again. And I feel like that’s a win-win for all of us.
[00:04:16] Now, despite my eye rolling about the whole campaign aspect of this, I do want to make it clear, I think it’s important that we fund our archdiocese. There are very important things that happen at the archdiocese. And from a canonical perspective, the tax on the parish budget and the annual Catholic appeal are both taxes, since we have to make that goal either way. All of the ministries of our archdiocese are important. Consider seminarian support. It would be very hard for me to do seven years of post undergraduate education to be a priest, if it weren’t funded by the archdiocese. It’d be very hard to do that. That’s obviously important. Certainly the youth rallies are important, the social justice concerns are important, the different things that we do. But honestly, things like centralized HR are important, too. The ability when we’re having an issue here, like a legal issue, to call up the archdiocese and lawyer and say, hey, how do we deal with this? Like, that’s very important. If we had to contract out for all of those services, it would be even more expensive. So from a very practical perspective, having a centralized office of the archdiocese, having a chancery is a huge help to us. And it is important for our parishioners to contribute to that help for our sake, but also for the sake of all of the parishes of the archdiocese, including those who are not as well off as we are. A lot of parishes really can’t deal with a lot of things themselves and really do need the support of the archdiocese.
[00:05:49] But this is a homily, and at some point it’s important to talk about Jesus. Otherwise, why are we here? And so a couple of things from the readings that I think would help us reflect on the need for this appeal and why it’s important for us to contribute. First, we have this first reading from the Acts of the Apostles and and this is the part of the Acts of the Apostles where it really turns to all the things that Paul is doing, all the journeys of Paul, all the places he’s going, the people he’s preaching to. And so Paul is headed back to Antioch. He’s done this journey and he’s back to Antioch. And so on his way, he’s described as doing this. “They appointed elders for them in each church and with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord and whom they had put their faith.” Paul believed that it was very important for every city in which the church was established to have an overseer or here an elder, what we today would call a bishop. It was very important that every local church – and when Rome talks in canon law about a local church, she means a diocese, so Western Washington is a local church – every local church to have somebody entrusted with their care. It’s a gift to us that we should have somebody looking out for us, somebody who is overseeing us, an elder among us. And so even though he, like all clerics, is simply a human being with all his gifts and flaws, just as I have my own gifts and flaws, at the end of the day, our archbishop is a gift to us, a gift from the apostles, in a sense, a gift from saints Peter and Paul themselves. This belief from the Apostles that we needed care, we needed an elder, we needed oversight, and that that gift should continue throughout the centuries and the millennia; it’s something that we shouldn’t forget. Given to us by the apostles as a gift. And so when our Archbishop comes to us and says, I need your help with my ministries, I need your help to make sure that I can fund the things that I have to do to fulfill my office as a successor to the apostles, when he comes to us with that appeal, I think it’s important for us to receive it as it’s intended, as a request from the person who is given to us by the apostles.
[00:08:21] Second. In our second reading from the Book of Revelation – and it plays into our gospel where Christ tells us that we’re marked by our love for each other – but I think it’s interesting how concrete it gets in our second reading. Saint John is describing the perfection of creation. It’s called “Revelation” because it pulls back the veil, it pulls back the veil of creation so that you can see the spiritual forces that are happening behind the scenes. And so he gives descriptions of all of this evil. That’s what people often focus on. This is the end of the world and all these beasts and whatever. He gives descriptions of what evil looks like, but he also gives descriptions of what perfection, what heavenly existence looks like. And so one of the descriptions he gives us is of a holy city. He says, “I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” It is incredible that Saint John would use the image of a city to describe the heavenly reality. He’s playing off of, maybe, or at least it’s an amazing coincidence, that he does the same thing that Plato does, that many of the ancient Greeks did when they were trying to understand society and humanity. They would use the analogy of a city. The ancients were fascinated with cities. So Saint John says that the heaven reality is like a city, the new Jerusalem.
[00:09:47] Well, what’s so important about a city? A city is a group of people working for a common goal. Oftentimes in the ancient world, there’s a group of people working for the goal of their mutual protection and their mutual survival, raising things like food. But together, a city is a functional unit. It has people of all sorts of stripes contributing in all sorts of different ways. A city has politicians and farmers and bakers and candlestick makers. All of these people in the city aim toward the same goal, doing the same thing, but in their own different ways. Saint John essentially is telling us this is what the body of Christ, the church, those who are redeemed and united and Jesus, this is what we look like at our best. All of us playing our different roles, doing our different thing with a common mission and a common goal. The worship of Jesus Christ. And the mutual support of each other. When we talk about the Annual Catholic Appeal, when we talk about the Church in her perfection, when we are at our best, we are talking about the fact that every single one of us as a Catholic plays our unique role in this church, in this parish. We all have our own ministries and ways that we contribute. But also in the archdiocese, we are part of a larger city, a well-functioning city. And that well-functioning city requires that all of us play our roles. If a city doesn’t have the farmer or doesn’t have the politician or doesn’t have the baker, something is significantly lacking.
[00:11:31] This is the sixth time I’ve spoken about tithing since I got to Assumption. Twice a year. I always emphasize that tithing is spiritually good for us. Money is a deep temptation. It’s very easy for us to be always focused on acquisition. “I need more. It’s never enough. I’m never safe enough. I never am comfortable enough. I never quite have that nest egg that I want.” It’s very easy for us to focus on that. In order to defang money, in order to remove its power over us – because it is necessary, we have to interact with money, we have to take care of ourselves and our families – but in order to remove its temptation, we have to give it away by giving our money away. Remember, all of our financial resources are first and foremost a gift from God. And if we give away the first (name a percentage, right), the first 10% of our money, then we can remind ourselves this is first the money of the Lord, and second, the money that I use for my own support. And so I think it’s incredibly important that we all set a percentage of our income and give that percentage away each year. That’s the message I’ve been preaching for three years.
[00:12:42] An additional part of that, though, today with this idea of a well functioning city, with the idea that our Archbishop is a gift from the apostles, I think it’s really important that each of us be able to say in a very concrete way that we contribute to the mission of the church. Now, that’s very real here in the parish. I think all of you know that and take that seriously. Many of you give your time, many of you give your money. Both are necessary, even if you’re not the frontline minister, even if you’re not able to teach the class or run the program, those classes and programs need financial support. And so we need people who are able to give money to support it. Those who give time and those who give money can both claim to be contributing to the mission of the church. Well, this is, I think, equally true with the archdiocese. All of us should be able to claim a participation in the ministry of our archbishop, the things that our archbishop does to take care of our parishes. Very few of us can contribute to archdiocesan ministry with time, but all of us can contribute to Archdiocesan ministry with funding. If I had a goal this year, other than the goal that we have to hit so we don’t get dinged in our parish budget. If I had a goal other than that this year, it would be that every single one of us could say that we participate in Archdiocesan Ministry, that each of us could say, I gave at least a dollar to the annual Catholic Appeal just so that I know that I’m contributing to this city, this church that is functioning well.
[00:14:22] Now a final note. I know that after 2002 and then 2018, with all of the different revelations about sex abuse that we’ve had to just deal with over and over and over again in this church, that in our desire for change and our desire to see something be different, a lot of people took the approach that they wouldn’t give to the Annual Catholic Appeal anymore. Two notes on that. First, practically, it doesn’t work. These are taxes. I have to pay the tax either way. So if you don’t give to the Annual Catholic Appeal, it just means it comes out of the parish budget. And I haven’t met anybody who said I don’t want to give to the parish anymore. You see the effect that the parish has in your lives, in the community. If you don’t, if you are unhappy or angry with the archdiocese, I think that’s fine. There’s justification for the anger that we feel about that. But the way you live that anger out, it will punish the parish if we don’t make our Annual Catholic Appeal goal.
[00:15:29] Second, though, a lot of our anger about that is a desire for change. We all want to see our church do its best. We want to see our church reflect accurately Jesus Christ. In my own peace that I’ve had to find around this, and particularly being a priest, I mean, not only am I a Catholic and therefore marred by this when it’s in the news, I’m a priest. People associate me with the sins that we’re talking about. So I’ve had to find peace with this myself. The peace that I found is that the only thing I have control over is my holiness. I have some control over the decisions of the parish. So in that sense, I guess I have a contributing influence on your holiness too. But the only thing I really have control over is my holiness. And the only change I’m ever going to see in the world and also in the archdiocese is going to come from becoming a saint. If I can become a saint, if I can really live the image of Jesus Christ, I don’t think it’s possible for people to turn down Jesus Christ. If we live as holy people, our holiness will spread out like ripples, and that will have an effect on our parish. And ultimately, if our parish is full of saints, it will have an effect on our archdiocese. That may not make it feel better to give a dollar or $10 or $100 to the Archdiocese. And I get that. But it’s what I have to offer you. At the end of the day, though, even as we struggle with the imperfection of the Church and our own imperfections, I think it’s still very important that we try our best to be the well-functioning city mentioned in the Book of Revelation; that we try our best to come together as a parish and as an archdiocese and try to live out the mission given to us by Jesus Christ.
you want to support the needs of the Archbishop.
Do not be a leaf in the wind. Make a deliberate choice.
Comencemos hablando de la oración.
Una de las peores cosas que puedes hacer por tu vida espiritual es orar cuando te da la gana. Y, sin embargo, esto es lo que la mayoría de nosotros hacemos. Oramos cuando tenemos ganas: cuando nos sentimos inspirados, o cuando nos sentimos desesperados, o cuando nos sentimos agradecidos. Esperamos que surja una emoción fuerte, ya sea buena o mala, y luego rezamos.
Pero a veces no tenemos una emoción fuerte. A veces simplemente hacemos nuestras tareas normales y, como nunca nos apetece, nunca pensamos en Dios. Y a veces nos deprimimos y perdemos la motivación para muchas de las cosas de nuestra vida, incluida la oración. Lo que tenemos que recordar es que nuestras emociones no son dignas de confianza. Si basamos todo lo que hacemos en nuestros sentimientos, entonces seremos como una hoja arrastrada por el viento: corremos el riesgo de ser arrastrados para siempre.
En cambio, nuestra relación con Dios requiere elecciones deliberadas. Tenemos que elegir orar, nos apetezca o no. No amas y cuidas a tu cónyuge solo cuando todos están felices, ¿verdad? Entonces, ¿por qué debemos tratar a Dios peor de lo que tratamos a nuestro cónyuge? Tenemos que elegir amar a Dios, y tenemos que tomar acciones deliberadas para amar a Dios. Cuando se trata de oración, debemos darle a Dios 15 minutos todos los días. Eso es sólo el 1% de nuestro día. ¿Creemos que Dios vale el 1% de nuestro día? ¡Sí, por supuesto que lo es! Debemos elegir darle estos 15 minutos todos los días. Es cómo le mostramos que lo amamos y cómo desarrollamos una relación con él. Si nuestra relación con Dios se basa en nuestros sentimientos, nunca le daremos a Dios lo que realmente merece, y nunca desarrollaremos una relación con él.
Ahora bien, todo lo que acabo de decir sobre la oración es cierto también sobre el dinero. Tantos miembros de nuestra comunidad dieron dinero en base a sus sentimientos. Ven venir la canasta, sienten que deben dar algo, abren su billetera para ver qué hay dentro y sacan un billete de un dólar o de cinco dólares. A veces, si se sienten especialmente bendecidos esa semana, pondrán un billete de diez o veinte dólares.
Ahora, no me malinterpreten, estoy agradecido por cada dólar que la gente da. Es increíblemente generoso dar cualquier cosa. Pero este tipo de dar, basado en nuestros sentimientos o qué tipo de facturas tenemos ese día, no es saludable para nosotros. Para crecer en nuestra vida espiritual, debemos ser dueños de nuestra vida espiritual. Debemos tomar decisiones deliberadas sobre nuestra vida espiritual. No puede saber si está dando una cantidad adecuada si acaba de dar lo que haya en su billetera ese día. ¿Cómo sabes que no estás dando demasiado o muy poco?
Creo que es increíblemente importante que todos den una hora de dinero a la parroquia cada semana. La mayoría de ustedes saben cuánto dinero ganan por hora de trabajo. El salario mínimo en el estado de Washington en este momento es de catorce dólares y cuarenta y nueve centavos por hora. Todos los que trabajan cuarenta horas cada semana deberían dar esta cantidad a la iglesia cada semana. Esto es aproximadamente el dos por ciento de sus ingresos, lo que definitivamente es menos que el diez por ciento completo que requieren muchas iglesias protestantes. Dando esta cantidad es como usted sabe que está dando a la Iglesia en un nivel apropiado. Dar debe ser una elección deliberada, no algo basado en nuestros sentimientos.
Menciono todo esto hoy porque hoy se supone que debemos hablar sobre la Campaña Católica Anual, el dinero que le damos a nuestro Arzobispo para apoyar sus ministerios. Estos ministerios son nuestros ministerios, porque existen para ayudar a las parroquias, así como el Arzobispo existe para servir a las parroquias.
En los materiales para la Campaña Católica Anual, la Arquidiócesis básicamente nos dijo que si tenemos una comunidad hispana, debemos pasar la canasta dos veces durante un mes y decir que está bien. En otras palabras, el sacerdote de la Arquidiócesis está tan frustrado con la forma en que sus comunidades hispanas abordan el diezmo que básicamente se han dado por vencidos; han decidido que es muy difícil enseñar a los hispanos a dar usando un plan, así que simplemente nos resignaremos a dar emocionalmente y pasaremos la canasta dos veces.
Pero creo que eres mejor que eso. No creo que debamos tratarlos como niños, creyendo que nunca podremos enseñarles el enfoque correcto para diezmar. Creo que en realidad puedes hacer lo correcto con tu dinero y dárselo a Dios de la manera correcta. Así que no voy a pasar la canasta dos veces, solo para culparte de que pongas dos billetes de cinco dólares. Te voy a llamar a algo mejor: a una relación deliberada con Jesucristo a través de tu tiempo, en oración y tu dinero, en el diezmo. Voy a llamarte a tomar una decisión deliberada y dejar de depender de tus sentimientos para determinar cómo vivirás tu fe.
Este año, no me importa cuánto dinero den a la Campaña Católica Anual. Este año, lo único que me importa es que todos intenten dar algo, aunque sea solo un dólar. Hay sobres en el espacio de reunión. Elija uno, llénelo, ponga algo de dinero en él y póngalo en la canasta la próxima semana. Necesitamos mostrarle a la Arquidiócesis que no son niños y que pueden participar en estos eventos para recaudar fondos de manera apropiada para adultos que toman decisiones deliberadas. Necesitamos mostrarle a la Arquidiócesis que usted quiere ser parte de la Iglesia en el Oeste de Washington y que quiere apoyar las necesidades del Arzobispo.
No seas una hoja en el viento. Haz una elección deliberada.
Spanish – Original English Text
Let’s start by talking about prayer.
One of the worst things you can do for your spiritual life is to pray when you feel like it. And yet, this is what most of us do. We pray when we feel like it: when we feel inspired, or when we feel desperate, or when we feel thankful. We wait for a strong emotion to come along, either good or bad, and then we pray.
But sometimes we do not have a strong emotion. Sometimes we just go through our normal tasks and, because we never feel like it, we never think about God. And sometimes we get depressed and we lose motivation for many of the things in our life, including prayer. What we have to remember is that our emotions are not trustworthy. If we base everything we do on our feelings, then we will be like a leaf blown by the wind – we are liable to be swept away forever.
Instead, our relationship with God requires deliberate choices. We have to choose to pray, whether we feel like it or not. You do not love and care for your spouse only when everyone is happy, do you? So why should we treat God worse than we treat our spouse? We have to choose to love God, and we have to take deliberate actions to love God. When it comes to prayer, we need to give God 15 minutes every day. That is only 1% of our day. Do we think that God is worth 1% of our day? Yes, of course he is! We must choose to give him these 15 minutes every day. It is how we show that we love him and how we develop a relationship with him. If our relationship with God is based on our feelings, we will never give God what he truly deserves, and we will never develop a relationship with him.
Now, everything I have just said about prayer is true also about money. So many members of our community given money based on their feelings. They see the basket coming, they feel like they should give something, they open their wallet to see what is in there, and they pull out either a one dollar bill or a five dollar bill. Sometimes, if they feel especially blessed that week, they will put in a ten dollar bill or a twenty dollar bill.
Now, do not get me wrong, I am thankful for every dollar that people give. It is incredibly generous to give anything at all. But this type of giving, based on our feelings or what kind of bills we have that day, is not healthy for us. In order to grow in our spiritual lives, we must own our spiritual lives. We must make deliberate choices about our spiritual lives. You cannot know if you are giving an appropriate amount if you just given whatever might be in your wallet that day. How do you know you are not giving too much or too little?
I think it is incredibly important that everyone give one hour of money to the parish every week. Most of you know how much money you make per hour of work. The minimum wage in Washington State right now is fourteen dollar and forty-nine cents per hour. Everyone who works forty hours each week should be giving this amount to the church every week. This is about two percent of your income, which is definitely less than the full ten percent that many Protestant churches require. Giving this amount is how you know that you are giving to the Church at an appropriate level. Giving must be a deliberate choice, not something based on our feelings.
I bring all of this up today because today we are supposed to talk about the Annual Catholic Appeal, the money that we give to our Archbishop to support his ministries. These ministries are our ministries, because they exist to help the parishes, just as the Archbishop exists to serve the parishes.
In the materials for the Annual Catholic Appeal, the Archdiocese basically told us that if we have a Hispanic Community, we should just pass the basket twice for a month and call it good. In other words, the priest of the Archdiocese are so frustrated with the way their Hispanic Communities approach tithing that they have basically given up; they have decided that it is too hard to teach Hispanics to give using a plan, so we will just resign ourselves to emotional giving and pass the basket twice.
But I think you are better than that. I don’t think we should have to treat you like children, believing that we can never teach you the proper approach to tithing. I think you can actually do the right thing with your money, and give it to God in the right way. So I am not going to pass the basket twice, just to guilt you into putting two five-dollar bills in. I am going to call you to something better – to a deliberate relationship with Jesus Christ through you time, in prayer, and your money, in tithing. I am going to call you to make a deliberate choice and to stop relying on your feelings to determine how you live out your faith.
This year, I do not care how much money you give to the Annual Catholic Appeal. This year, the only thing I care about is that everyone try to give something, even if it is only a dollar. There are envelopes in the gathering space. Pick one up, fill it out, put some money in it, and put it in the basket next week. We need to show the Archdiocese that you are not children and that you can participate in these fundraisers in ways that are appropriate for adults who make deliberate choices. We need to show the Archdiocese that you do want to be part of the Church in Western Washington and that you want to support the needs of the Archbishop.
Do not be a leaf in the wind. Make a deliberate choice.