I’m speaking at all the Masses this weekend, and I know what you’re thinking: here comes the money talk. All he ever does is talk about money. I hope you don’t really feel that way, because we do try to keep all the money talk to a minimum. We do, however, want to keep you in the loop and so on occasion you’ve had updates from Tim French, the chairman of our Finance, Facilities and Administration Commission, and most recently from Scott Marshall, the President of our Parish Council. I am grateful to both of them for the work they and their peers have done in keeping us on point financially, and helping to steer our parish in the right direction. As for me, this is the only time I will be coming to you to talk about money, except for the Diocesan Appeal in the winter.
But I’m not even just talking to you about money today, because quite honestly, I am asking for something a whole lot more valuable. And that’s in the spirit of today’s Gospel. Jesus wasn’t as interested in the rich young man’s money as he was in his heart and soul. And he asked for that in exchange for something much more valuable than anything we or the rich young man possess: eternal life. That, after all, was what the rich young man wanted, right? I mean, he asks Jesus at the beginning of the Gospel reading what he has to do to inherit it. And it’s actually a good question. I don’t know if it’s because we take salvation for granted or if we can’t really see past the next big thing happening in our crazy lives, but I sometimes think we’re not as zealous about inheriting eternal life as we should be. So we could all – myself included, by the way – learn a little something from the rich young man’s question.
So today I’m asking you to give up whatever it is that may be holding you back – riches, status, anything – and go all in for the prize of eternal life. Just like Jesus, I am asking for your hearts and souls, so that you might have the great gift of eternal happiness in the life to come.
So what does that even mean? What does it look like? To get there, I want to focus on the three traditional areas of time, talent and treasure. Treasure we’ve been talking about for a little while now. Scott gave you an overview of the parish’s position a couple of weeks ago, and the financial report was in the bulletin. If you missed that, it is also published on our parish website. The budget this year calls for a 3% increase in operating expenses. That amount covers anticipated energy and environmental costs, keeping our buildings in good repair, salaries and benefits for all of our parish and school employees, and the expenses of our parish ministries. Your generosity helps us to reach out to those in need, touch the lives of those who are hurting, and teach the faith to people of all ages.
I am appointing a buildings and grounds committee to work with our Finance, Facilities and Administration Commission. Their task will be to assess the needs of our parish facilities. They will help us to plan for repair and replacement of various resources of our campus. Our goal would be to have a surplus in the budget each year so that we can put money aside for those expenses, something we have not been able to do in recent years. Another goal would be to finish the basement project in order to provide space for our teens, a good facility for our food pantry, rehearsal space for our choirs, and meeting space for all our ministries. That is something that was part of the original vision of our new facility, something we have not as yet been able to accomplish, although we have been saving money toward it.
Over the past year, we have replaced air conditioning compressors in the parish offices and in the school gym, have completed a large upgrade on our parish’s computer network and the school’s computer lab; we have repaired and maintained the parking lot with the goal of keeping it intact for at least another decade, and many other smaller projects. Your generosity and the hard work of staff and parishioners alike have made all this possible.
But there is so much more to do, and I ask that each of you discern how you can help us to meet our increased budget needs through your offertory support. While we all have different resources to draw from and commitments to fulfill, we can each give something in support of our parish family. We are doing our best to use modern conveniences to assist parishioners in their giving. We have electronic giving options to help meet the demands presented by the fast pace of our lives. Details are in our bulletin and in the letter from me which you should have already received, or will receive in the next few days. You can always give online at givetond.org.
So now I want to ask for something more, and that is your time and talent. One of the greatest strengths of Notre Dame Parish is the outreach to those in need. We are blessed with volunteers and staff who minister tirelessly to the hungry, the homeless and those who are struggling with life challenges. We also have strong programs in our school and religious education programs, youth ministry and Confirmation preparation, and adult education and RCIA programs. In addition we are always trying to build on our strong worship, improving how we come together to celebrate the Eucharist, and to make our time worshipping our God a top priority. We also make time to come together at wonderful events like the Oktoberfest, the Dinner Dance, the Italian Dinner and Saint Patrick’s Day Party – just to name a few.
But as many wonderful volunteers as we have to make all of that happen, we could always, always use way more. Every one of our volunteers who head up our ministries would tell you that they could use more help. And some of our volunteers are getting up there in age and cannot do what they used to do. We’ve recently buried good people like Marty Rock and Eileen Thome who served our parish so faithfully for many, many years. Who is going to take their place? And so many of our volunteers are pulled in all sorts of directions, some of them taking on what is quite honestly too much.
This is our community; it’s not an auditorium where we come to see a show or a shop where we go to receive a service. This is a family where everyone needs to take part to make the community vibrant and active. If you’re not already active in ministry around here, I am asking you to prayerfully discern how God is calling you to serve. What are your special talents? What are the activities here that energize you or stir up your passion? Those are ways that you can serve, and be part of the mission of our parish.
In all honesty, we have not been good about soliciting volunteers in past years. We are looking for new ways to do that and will roll some things out in the next year. But in the mean time, there are three ways you can help. First, you can respond prayerfully to the questions I just asked, and if you discern a talent or passion that you’d like to share, let us know. If you don’t know who to contact, tell me or Father Steve and we will put you in touch with the right person. Second, watch the bulletin and our electronic newsletter for volunteer opportunities. And third, be part of our Second Annual Parish Service Day next Saturday. I promise that you will find being an active part of the parish rewarding, and even more, I proclaim the promise of eternal life that Jesus wants to offer to the rich young man – and to us – today.
The Church teaches that, in living the Gospel, we are to strive for reasonable happiness in this life, and eternal happiness in the life to come. That’s what today’s readings teach us. We pray for wisdom, which puts us on the path to eternal life. We zealously seek eternal happiness. We put our lives and our resources at the service of the Gospel. We contribute our time, talent and treasure to the mission of the Church. We beg God, with the Psalmist today, to prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands!
Committing ourselves to this great endeavor of grace, let us take the Stewardship Prayer Cards from the pew racks, stand, and pray together:
We give you thanks for all you have given us:
our families, our homes, our community,
You have walked with us as we grow together in faith;
You speak through us when we teach and witness to the Gospel;
You work in us when we reach out to those in need.
Help us to grow in faith:
May we never be in distress when we are in need;
May we never be indifferent when we have surplus.
Teach us how to be a generous people,
freely pouring out the love you daily give us;
confident that the store of that love has no end
because its source is always You, God.
Renew Your Spirit in us;
help us to be One Body, One Spirit in Christ,
and help us to create the world anew in You.
Through Christ our Lord.