Rummage sales are one of my sources of entertainment. My home is arrayed in many things I never knew I needed. This past winter I decided it was time to reduce my possessions. I put together a large box of clothing for our local St. Vincent de Paul store. Then I thought, “this is pretty nice clothing, maybe I should take it to a consignment shop and make some money for myself.” I shoved the box out into the garage and, as sometimes happens, forgot about it.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the box this spring and discovered the clothes in shreds. It was obvious some little creature had created a warm little nest during the winter. St. James in the second reading for this Sunday warns us of the dangerous pitfalls we will encounter by holding not only our property, but all of our gifts and talents too close to ourselves; they will rot away, become moth eaten and corrode.
In recent years a topic we have heard about in our parishes is stewardship and sacrificial giving. Initially we think, “they are asking me to give more money.” Granted our parishes cannot operate without a sound income and responsible budget, but equally valued are our gifts of time, talent and prayer. The way the ritual of our eucharistic liturgy is laid out reflects this concept. When we attend Mass we do not make the sign of the cross and immediately take up the monetary collection. We gather, already keeping in mind those who have given of their time to make preparations for this liturgy: sacristans, church cleaners, visual artists, secretaries, liturgists, presiders and others.
We begin in song, sharing our own gift of voice as best we can, while being led by those with the giftedness to be music ministers. Lectors come forward to share their hours of preparation and talent for proclamation as they make God’s holy word alive for us. We are called to stewardship of prayer, offering our personal prayers during the opening prayer and again at the prayers of the faithful. Only then does the church invite us to offer our financial support. With baskets passed among us, each gives according to our ability. The gifts are brought forward, first the bread and wine of our prayer and service, and then our gifts of financial treasure.
Even in this subtle way, the church reminds us, stewardship is a blessed action more encompassing than a church envelope. As we begin the liturgy we lay before the Lord all that we have that the stewardship of our lives can be transformed into service to God and the very Body of Christ. In many parishes during these fall weeks people are being encouraged to renew their offering of time, talent and treasure “because we belong to Christ.” May our minds, hearts, our very souls, be ready for the harvest.
Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh. She has a master’s degree in liturgical studies.