Mike was one of my favorite people in the world. He owned the service station where my family had, and still has, our cars repaired and maintained ever since we first moved out to the suburbs, almost forty years ago now. Dad used to joke that with all the cars we brought in there over the years, we probably had ownership in at least the driveway by now. Mike was the kind of guy who, if you brought your car in for a tune-up, would call you and say, “your car doesn’t really need a tune-up yet, so I’ll just change the oil and a couple of the spark plugs and you’ll be fine.” He was honest and did great work, and it seemed like everyone knew him. He taught that to a kid who came to work for him when he was just sixteen. When Mike retired five years or so ago, Ted took over for him and runs the business just the way Mike taught him.
Mike was a regular at the 7am Mass on Sunday, and after his retirement was a pretty regular daily Mass-goer. The church would sometimes ask him to help a person in need with car repairs. This he did gladly; he was always ready to serve. A couple of years ago, when Mike died, I took Mom to his wake. It took us an hour and a half to get in to see him and his family, and it was like that all night long. His funeral packed the parish church, and eight of us priests concelebrated the Mass. Mike left his mark on our community in incredible ways, and nobody ever forgot it.
Today’s gospel reading speaks to us about what may be the hallmark of Christian life: love of God and love of neighbor. This two-pronged approach to loving is what life is all about for us, it is, in fact, the way we are all called to live the Gospel. The scholar of the law is testing Jesus to see if he can come up with a way to discredit him. But Jesus’ answer is one that the scholar can’t take issue with. There were over six hundred major and minor precepts in the Jewish law, but any scholar worth his salt knew that they all boiled down to love. In fact, the first of the laws that Jesus quoted, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind and soul…” was once that so many students of the law had memorized, so this was not new ground for them. What was new was putting the love of neighbor parallel to that law.
Today we begin our parish’s annual time, talent and treasure campaign for the strength of our parish. This is the time when we parishioners of Notre Dame renew in our minds and in our hearts that love of God and love of neighbor are the first priority in our lives. God is the One who gives us everything that we have and makes us everything that we are. It is our special task in this life to use what we have been given and who we are and have become to give honor and glory to God. Worship and prayer is the way that we come to love God. Service and generosity are the ways that we show it. That is the way of stewardship; that is the way of the Christian life.
In a couple of weeks, our Finance Council will give you details about our parish’s financial condition; you can also read about that in this week’s parish bulletin. So today, I would just like to give some highlights. We all understand that it takes money to run an organization. Gifts received through the Sunday collection not only help with the utilities and day-to-day operations of the parish, but they also provide resources to continue to build and strengthen our many parish ministries and programs.
The budget for the fiscal year that will end on June 30, 2012 is $1.46 million. This is a four percent decrease from the prior fiscal year. What I hope you take away from this news is the following: First, we are working hard to be financially sound and making decisions that make the best use of the dollars entrusted to the parish. Second, we are forced to make cuts in our budget because we had a shortfall last year of about $91,000. The only way we can fulfill our parish financial needs is with a commitment from everyone. If we all do our part, we will be successful.
Some ask how much they should give. The truth is that only you and your family can decide that; it looks different for every household. I just ask that you prayerfully reflect on the blessings you have received and consider a meaningful increase. If you have not participated in offertory giving, I ask you to prayerfully consider an investment of the salary you earn during the first hour of your work week. Some people find that first hour on Monday morning to be challenging and difficult; wouldn’t it be great to have the motivation of offering that time to the Lord in gratitude for your many blessings? Whatever you decide, I will not be asking you to return a commitment form this year. We want to make things easier and trust that you will respond with great love. So I just ask that you simply increase your offering as soon as you are able.
I also ask that all of you: adults, seniors, children, youth and young adults, all of you consider a meaningful contribution of your time and talent. There are many wonderful ministries in our parish, and all of them would welcome some fresh blood and new energy. We are in need of people to greet other people as they come in to Mass. We can always use help with our religious education and youth ministry programs. We are trying to revitalize our parish council and worship commission, and we could use people who love the Church to be part of those groups. Our music ministry could always use more voices and instruments to glorify God in song. If you are a couple who loves your marriage, we could use your passion to mentor engaged couples. I’d like to start a health care ministry to help people monitor their blood pressure and learn how to take care of themselves, and occasionally look in on a sick parishioner to make sure their needs are being met. And that’s just to name a few.
Our parish day of service is next Saturday. This is a wonderful way to try some service with a limited time commitment, especially if you are not sure how God is calling you to serve. Please stop in the narthex after Mass to sign up for one or more activities, and don’t forget to sign up to come to the dinner after the 5:00 Mass. Tomorrow/today we’ll also hear from the Invisible Children and learn how we can reach out to those hurting across the globe. Our love for God and neighbor can make a difference right here in Clarendon Hills and half way around the world. Love has no limits!
I think that my friend Mike understood quite well why Jesus put love of God and love of neighbor at the top of those six hundred or so Jewish laws. He knew the joy that came from being connected to a loving God, and made it his top priority to share that love with others any way he could. Small acts, great faith, awesome generosity. This is what it takes for the Church to continue to show God’s love to others. My prayer is that we will all take time to reflect this week on how we can love God and our neighbor by generously returning a portion of our time, talent and treasure that God might be glorified in all things. Thank you all for all that you do to make our parish as great as it is. God bless you.