Today is commitment Sunday as a part of our annual Stewardship Renewal always held in August. But I’ve decided this year not to focus so much on the stewardship of our “Time, Talent and Treasure” but rather to focus on what these are meant to support in our spiritual and moral lives as Catholics, as Roman Catholics, the stewardship of our Catholic Faith and the splendor of truth that our Catholic Church gives to us, or rather, what God gives to us through His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
I want to make the main point of my homily, the main point that Joshua makes in our Old Testament Reading which is a dramatic challenge to his people of his day. In the Sacred Assembly of Joshua’s time and in the presence of God in that place, Joshua boldly confronts his people who had chosen to follow the false gods and religion of his region and he boldly confronts us today in our similar Catholic context of the Mass. This is what Joshua states to them and to us with my paraphrase of his words:
If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the true God of your Catholic Faith or the false gods of secularism and its fierce individualism; the false gods of consumerism or the false religions that protest the true Catholic faith and lead souls into schism and heresy. Then Joshua declares and I paraphrase, “As for me and my household, we will serve the true Lord and God and His Holy Religion.
Topic Statement: At the very heart of Catholic Stewardship is the preservation of the true Catholic Faith in each person’s soul and life. It means serving the true Lord and God and His Holy Catholic Church, the true Church. I will not mince my words about that and neither should anyone in this sacred assembly.
1. The image of the Sacrament of Marriage between one man and one woman and for a life time who subordinate themselves to one another becomes the image of Catholics who are subordinate, meaning holy obedience, to Jesus Christ, the head of the Church and her bridegroom. For this reason the Catholic Church would understand the civil redefinition of marriage to be an attack on the very nature of the Church described metaphorically as a Divine Marriage between Jesus the Bridegroom and His Holy Bride the Church.
A. Our second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is one of 13 choices brides and grooms have for the New Testament reading at their Wedding Mass or Nuptial Liturgy. Usually the bride is the one who makes these selections. In my 35 years as a priest, I think I can count on one hand the number of times this reading about wives being subordinate to their husbands has been chosen. This indicates a complete lack of understanding of this extremely important letter for today and perhaps a lack of understanding of the very nature of the Church as Christ's holy Bride! Yet, this reading is at the very core of Catholic marriage which is meant to be a sign of the marriage of Christ to His bride the Church, all baptized souls. Keep in mind that the word “soul” in Latin and many European languages is a feminine word unfortunately lost in English. The Catholic family that flows from Catholic marriage is meant to be the Church in miniature. Wives and husbands are subordinate to one another as our Catholic Church, meaning all of us, are subordinate to Christ. Our obedience to one another is not based on disrespect or pagan lusts, or domination. It is based upon the Love of God. When subordination is based upon the love of God it is never a domineering or controlling subordination that offend the dignity of the husband or wife.
B. Saint Paul knows that in his culture, pagan men dominated their wives. He knew that infidelity was rampant in pagan culture which had so influenced even the Jews and some followers of Christ. Infidelity in marriage was a sign of infidelity to almighty God in His marital union with us deserving retribution and divine punishment. Husbands did not love their wives; they used their wives for their own personal needs and selfish pleasures. Saint Paul tells these men so corrupted by their pagan culture, like Catholics can be today, to love your wives as Christ loves the Church. Husbands should love their wives as they love their own body. This isn’t domineering or insulting or detrimental in any way when the subordination is linked to Christ and his loving actions on our behalf to save us from sin and damnation.
2. The stewardship of our Catholic Faith is consummated at each and every Mass when our Lord gives Himself to His Bride the Church, when He gives us His most holy body, blood, soul and sacrificed for our eternal salvation.
A. The last four Sundays and concluding this Sunday the Church has given us the “Bread of Life Discourse” from Jesus in the Gospel of Saint John. The Catholic Church’s dogma about the Real Presence Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist in large part derives from Jesus Words in these Gospel passages from Saint John. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, our Savior who is the Bridegroom married to His Holy and Spotless Bride which is the Church gives Himself completely to us. In fact, simply attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass even if one cannot receive Holy Communion due to breaking the fast, having committed a mortal sin or some other impediment, Jesus is still giving us is Sacrificed Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity for our salvation!
Some of the Jews to whom Jesus is speaking, do not like what Jesus is saying. This kind of intimacy is too much for them. They grumble and quarrel among themselves. They simply do not believe that Jesus is God and they are offended by the imagery he uses of eating and drinking His Body and Blood as the means to eternal life. But does Jesus adjust his teachings to please those who are quarreling and will eventually reject Him. He is not a politician who adjusts his message based upon the fickleness of his hearers. No! He does not change his teachings even if this means that the number of people following Him will be small in number. Jesus isn’t selling used cars; He isn’t selling anything. He is demanding fidelity to Him as He is the true God. If people reject Him and the Splendor of His truth—so be it—it is a sign that they wish to live as though God and true religion do not exist. They bring eternal condemnation on themselves. If we do what they did, we would bring eternal condemnation on ourselves too.
B. The model of how we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and our inward and outward dispositions is the liturgy of the Heavenly Jerusalem, described in the Book of the Revelation. It is characterized by seven elements, such as kneeling, deep inclinations, prostrations; incense; sacred songs, not performing worldly or sensual music being free from concentration on oneself; praying and singing together with the Angels; a prolonged time for silence; putting Eucharistic Christ in the visible centre of the church building and our lives. Doing these actions, this practices in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the foundation of the stewardship of our true Catholic faith.
Conclusion: I thank all of you who have returned your stewardship commitment cards to us. For those who haven’t done so, please fill out the card now and place it in the collection basket. Let us understand our time, talent and treasure as a generous effort to do what Joshua says he will do: “As for me and my household, we will serve the true Lord God and His Holy Religion.”