Archive for the ‘Stewardship’ Category

History’s Ten Wealthiest People and the Vanity of Riches

July 27, 2016

In estimated billions of present-day dollars

  1. Cornelius Vanderbilt ($185, died 1877)
    This railroad tycoon’s only large philanthropic gift gave about 1% of his fortune to build Vanderbilt University.
  1. Henry Ford ($199, died 1947)
    This deceased automaker’s name survives on vehicles seen upon every road and junkyard.
  1. Muammar Gaddafi ($200, died 2011)
    This dictator of Libya, after being discovered hiding in a desert culvert, was killed by his people.
  1. Jakob Fugger “the Rich ($221, died 1525)
    While he lived, this German merchant-financier declared, “The king reigns, but the bank rules!
  1. William The Conqueror ($229, died 1087)
    After killing many to capture England, this Duke of Normandy, France joined the dead.
  1. Mir Osman Ali Khan ($230, died 1967)
    As head of the state of Hyderabad, India, he used a 185-carat diamond as a paperweight.
  1. Czar Nikolas II ($300, died 1918)
    This Russian ruler was assassinated along with his family by communist revolutionaries.
  1. Andrew Carnegie ($310, died 1919)
    This steel magnate and philanthropist said, “The man who dies rich dies disgraced.”
  1. John D. Rockefeller ($340, died 1937)
    He sold oil drawn from Ohio’s earth and now lays buried in the same.
  1. Mansa Musa I ($400, died 1337)
    This African king of Mali was the richest man to ever live. But have you ever heard of him?

Psalm 49:7-12 :

“No man can buy his own ransom, or pay a price to God for his life. The ransom of his soul is beyond him. He cannot buy life without end, nor avoid coming to the grave. He knows that wise men and fools must both perish and must leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes for ever, their dwelling place from age to age, though their names spread wide through the land. In his riches, man lacks wisdom; he is like the beasts that are destroyed.”

 

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The First Principle and Foundation

July 31, 2014

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.

And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created.

From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.

For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.

-St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises #23

Giving Our Best — 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

June 15, 2013

After the great sins of David, regarding Bathsheba and Uriah, God told King David, “I anointed you king of Israel. I rescued you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your lord’s house and your lord’s wives for your own. I gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were not enough, I could count up for you still more.” God says this to reveal the ingratitude of David and to prompt a change in the way that David lives. We’ve all been richly blessed also, therefore, we must also live properly.

All good things in life come from God: every beauty you behold with your senses, every useful possession you own, every kind person you know, every good personal characteristic you have, all of these are gifts from God to you. We are not the masters of the things we have or are. We are stewards of these gifts and our Lord is God.

Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator. Our service is not about repaying to God for his loans and our debts. But God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. ‘By works of the law alone no one will be justified.’ But when we do good works out of love for Christ, by his grace working in us, Jesus rewards us.

“Do you see this woman?” Jesus asks Simon the Pharisee. From her wealth, she gave fine perfume. In her heart, she gave sad tears. From her strength, she gave humble service. From her beauty, she gave her hair soft. From her body, she gave affectionate kisses. The woman gave their best gifts to Jesus because she was forgiven and loved much. She is an example for us. Jesus Christ, who has given you the good things you have, deserves your best gifts of love. And every time you do, he will reward you for our gifts.

Después de los grandes pecados de David, con respecto a Betsabé y Urías, Dios dijo al rey David, “Yo te consagré rey de Israel y te libré de las manos de Saúl, te confié la casa de tu Señor y puse sus mujeres en tus brazos; te di poder sobre Judá e Israel, y si todo esto te parece poco, estoy dispuesto a darte todavía más.” Dios dice esto a revelar la ingratitud de David, y fomentar un cambio en la forma de como David vive. Todos hemos sido ricamente bendecidos también, por lo tanto, debemos vivir apropiadamente también.

Todas las cosas buenas de su vida vienen de Dios: cada belleza que contemplas con tus sentidos, cada posesión útil que posees, cada persona amable que conoces, cada buena característica de la persona que tienes, todos de estos son dones de Dios para ti. No somos los amos de las cosas que tenemos o somos. Somos mayordomos de estos dones y nuestro Señor es Dios.

Entre Dios y nosotros, la desigualdad no tiene medida, porque nosotros lo hemos recibido todo de Él, nuestro Creador. Nuestro servicio no es sobre pagar a Dios por sus créditos y nuestras deudas. Pero Dios ha dispuesto libremente asociar al hombre a la obra de su gracia. ‘Nadie queda justificado por el cumplimiento de la ley sólo.’ Pero cuando hacemos buenas obras por amor a Cristo, por su gracia que obrando en nosotros, Jesús nos recompensa.

“¿Ves a esta mujer?” Jesús pregunta a Simón el fariseo. De su riqueza, ella dio fina perfume. De su corazón, ella dio tristes lágrimas. De su fuerza, ella dio servicio humilde. De su belleza, ella dio su cabello suave. De su cuerpo, ella dio besos cariñosos. La mujer dio sus mejores regalos a Jesús porque ella fue perdonado y amado mucho. Ella es un ejemplo para nosotros. Jesucristo, quien nos ha dado las cosas buenas que tenemos, merece recibir nuestras mejores regalos de amor. Y, cada vez que lo hacemos, él nos recompensará nuestros dones.

‘Tis Better to Give — Tuesday After Epiphany

January 5, 2010

(The Micro Machines Aircraft Carrier – Not the Summum Bonum)

When I was a kid, in preparation for Christmas, I remember how my sisters and I would explore those big Sears and J.C. Pennies catalogues and circle the things we really wanted. I also remember the intensity of my excitement when I would open my presents to discover the toys that I had dreamed about. But over the years, I saw a pattern develop that maybe you’ve begun to start noticing for yourself.

Christmas after Christmas, I would play with all my toys, but I discovered that I would never get as much happiness from as I had imagined they would give me when they were still in their boxes. No Christmas toy ever delivered the supreme happiness I had hoped for from them. I was blessed through these experiences to learn a very valuable lesson. I learned that that getting stuff would not and could not complete me—it couldn’t make me truly happy.

Stuff won’t make you truly happy, but there are lots of people who don’t know this. Why do you think it is that TV and advertisers are always going after that “target demographic” of 18 to 34 year-olds, especially that younger segment of 18 to 24 year-olds? It’s because these consumers have significant amounts of disposable income, perhaps for the first time in their lives. And, since they do not have the wisdom of years, many of them can still be fooled into thinking that this or that product will really make them as happy as advertised.

Don’t let yourself be fooled into taking that bait. Keep in mind the words Jesus who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 2:35). It’s really about giving that I want to speak to you today. There are many ways that we can give of ourselves, of our time, talent and treasure, but this morning I want to address the importance and blessedness of giving from our incredible wealth.

Now I doubt that you would describe yourself as a rich person. In terms of our society, you’re probably not. But realize, that when compared to the rest of the world, you are a very wealthy individual. Did you know that about half of the people in the world live on less than $2.50 a day?

From our great material blessedness comes the great responsibility to share. Yet, the fact that we are far richer than many other people is really beside the point. Even if we were poor compared to everyone else, Jesus would still ask us to share of what we have. For whenever we give out of love, and a desire to spread and advance God’s kingdom, we imitate Jesus Himself, who gave of Himself to us first.

Maybe you feel like you have nothing much to give. The disciples thought they had next to nothing to give too, and they were right. They had just five loaves of bread and two fishes, but Jesus said to them, ‘Give the crowd some food yourselves.’ The disciples wondered what good so little could do for so many, but in Jesus’ hands their small gifts multiplied.  Their deed first feed thousands, and then, through its retelling in the Gospel, it feed untold millions.

It would be hubris, or foolish pride, for us to think that if only we had a million dollars, a billion dollars, a trillion dollars, or any sum, that we by ourselves could save the world. Yet, when we place what little we have into Christ’s hands, giving where and when the Holy Spirit prompts us, Jesus blesses it and our deed does more good within His kingdom than we realize.

Though you never fully see all of the good your giving causes on earth, you can immediately feel some of its goodness inside yourself. Part of the blessedness of charitable giving is in the joy you feel in always knowing that you have done a good deed. When you consume something you may enjoy it for a moment, but when you give something away in love you can enjoy that act forever. If fact, when we get to heaven, we should find ourselves made the instant friends of many strangers when it is revealed to us how our lives were profoundly connected through the smallest gifts.

To help in put our faith into practice, to love our neighbors and advance the Kingdom, we are going to begin taking more regular collections at our weekly school Masses in support various causes. We will be starting by helping a number of area organizations suggested by the Student Senate. And, once our Liturgy & Campus Ministry Committee is up and running, about which Mr. Zimmerman will be speaking to you about at the end of Mass, the selection of worthy charitable causes will one of the important tasks that will fall to them.

Today our collection will be going, in its entirety, to support the Hope Lodge here in Marshfield. The Hope Lodge provides temporary accommodations for patients and their family members while they are receiving cancer treatments at the Marshfield Clinic. Please give as generously as the Holy Spirit may prompt you and know that you will certainly be blessed.

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

November 9, 2009

Widow's Mite

Imagine if you took two pennies and put them into a savings account, at 1.5 percent interest annually, and left it there for 2000 years. How much money would there be at the end? (2 cents, 2000 years, at 1.5% interest.) One hundred dollars?  No, higher.  A thousand dollars?  Still higher.  Ten thousand dollars?   Not even close. There would be one-hundred, seventy-one billion dollars.

[$0.02 * (1.015)^2000 = $171,046,619,000]

First of all, this reveals to us the power and the fury of compound interest.  But second, and relevant to today’s gospel, this shows us that small things can be more powerful and valuable than we would expect.

One day, almost two thousand years ago, a poor widow climbed the temple mount in Jerusalem and walked among the crowds in the temple courts to the treasury where she gave two small coins for the support of the temple.  Many rich people where there, were pouring much larger gifts into the treasury with great fanfare. Though her gift was tiny compared to theirs, that doesn’t mean that what she did was an easy thing to do. Being poor, it was hard for her, a real sacrifice.  She had to trust in the God of Israel; the God said to provide for the needs of orphans and widows like her. She could have dropped in just one coin, or given nothing at all, but she gave both coins, everything she had. She wasn’t trying to be seen, but the Lord was watching.

Jesus, sitting across from the treasury, called His disciples to Himself to draw their attention to her. “Look at what this poor widow has done.  Take this, all of you, as an image of myself.  Just as she has given everything as a gift of herself to God (even though it was hard and took great trust) so will I give myself up for you.”

The poor widow’s two coins, worth just a few cents, landed in the treasury with a quiet “tink, tink,” but her act has echoed through the centuries. Everywhere this gospel has been preached, the throughout the centuries and around the world, what she did has been remembered.  How many consciences have been pricked and how many hearts have been inspired to invest more completely into the kingdom of God? If the good her small deed has done throughout the ages could be quantified, it would far surpass one hundred, seventy-one billion dollars.

When we rise from the dead, at the general resurrection, I suspect that this poor widow will stand out.  She will be more glorious and enchantingly beautiful than most, and (even though the gospel does not give her name) everyone will know who see is and she will enjoy the love and gratitude of vast multitudes.

When we die, we will all die penniless, and when we rise we will all rise penniless, but some of us will be richer than others. The richest in heaven are those who receive and can give the greatest love, and this will depend upon how much we have invested ourselves into the kingdom of heaven.

You are already giving to your spouses and your children, your friends and your family, at home, at work, and at church, but we should ask ourselves from time to time how much we are giving from our surplus wealth and how much was are making a total gift of ourselves.  Such giving is hard, it takes trust in God, and it conforms us to Jesus Christ. When we give ourselves in this way, in the likeness of Jesus Christ, our gifts yields the greatest returns, here on earth and forever in heaven.

Now you have heard me put in my two cents.  I pray that it may result in great profit for your souls.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

September 6, 2009

Remember what it was like before the dot-com bubble burst? Maybe you heard about tiny internet start-ups having total stock values in the billions and you just knew that that wouldn’t last. Remember the time before the recent housing bubble popped? I remember watching a show on TV called “Flip this House” in which a couple bought a building, put two weeks of work and a few thousand dollars into cleaning it up, and then quickly sold it for several tens of thousands of dollars more than what they bought it. I remember saying to myself then, “This just can’t go on. This isn’t sustainable.”

The thing about economic bubbles is that while you can often read the signs of the times and see that the bubble’s there, you’re never quite sure when it will pop.

For years now, our country has been riding on a similar bubble with the unsustainable spending and borrowing by the federal government. We’re not quite sure when it will finally pop, but you can see that the bubble’s there.  Most of us here will witness firsthand the consequences of its bursting.

The Congressional Budget Office is a non-partisan, independent government agency that provides economic data to Congress. And for years, regardless of whether the Democrats or Republicans were in power, the CBO has consistently reported the unfortunate facts and grim forecasts of our present course. This summer, the CBO published its “Long-Term Budget Outlook.” And they tell us, quote…

“Under current law, the federal budget is on an unsustainable path—meaning that federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run.

Although great uncertainty surrounds longterm fiscal projections, rising costs for health care and the aging of the U.S. population will cause federal spending to increase rapidly under any plausible scenario for current law. […]

Keeping deficits and debt from reaching levels that would cause substantial harm to the economy would require increasing revenues significantly…, decreasing projected spending sharply, or some combination of the two.”

Some or all of the following things will inevitably happen: an increased federal retirement age, decreased retirement benefits from Social Security, decreased health benefits from Medicare and/or Medicaid, increased federal taxes, or (and this seems the most likely) a dramatically increased national debt.

Now understand that an endlessly ballooning national debt is no solution.  It has economic consequences for us. What happens when foreign countries finally decide they are no longer interested in holding any more of our debt (in the form of low-interest yielding U.S. government bonds?) One result will be hyper-inflation, which will negatively impact anyone who uses U.S. Dollars. Unpleasant changes are coming. And they will have real consequences our lives. We will feel their effects.

Maybe hearing me speak about these grim realities feels as if I’ve just spit on your tongue.  It’s unpleasant and a bit repulsive. But my hope and prayer is that you will “be opened” by it, that you will be motivated to prepare yourself for what is coming, to begin living now as we should have already been living as Chrisitians all along.

In the past we have lived beyond our means, just like crowd, just like the government made in our own image. We spent more than we had and we often spent wastefully. But we are called to live differently, to live out Christian stewardship, Christian poverty, or simplicity of life in our own lives. Let’s not wait to hit economic rock bottom before we begin living as we ought to.

We are called to live simply and within our means, free from debt-slavery. We are called to be both frugal and generous, generous and frugal. If we are frugal without generosity, we’re simply being misers. If we are generous without frugality, we are being irresponsible. But if you are both frugal and generous won’t God, who (as the psalmist says) keeps faith forever, who secures justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry, who supports the fatherless and the widow, won’t He provide you with what you need? On the other hand, if we are not frugal and generous, if we do not lovingly support our poor neighbors, those in our parish, throughout the diocese, and abroad, then how can we ask God to support us?

To quote St. James, “Act on this word.  If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves.” “Fear not, be strong.” “Be not afraid,” but prepare yourself. Prepare for the days when our accounts will come due.  For a day coming soon in our country, and for the Last Day, when we shall all appear before God.