32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
32nd Sunday / Ordinary / C / Sacrificial Giving Weekend
November 5-6, 2016
St. Thomas Aquinas, Ames, Iowa
Fr. Jon Seda
The best text I received this week had a Chicago Cubs logo, and stated: For anyone who made promises to God during the 9th inning of game 7, the Mass times are as follows . . . So to any of those Chicago Cubs fans with us today, welcome!
This weekend is our annual sacrificial giving weekend. I promise not to do any arm twisting or guilt trips. Instead I would like to tell you about a very good man who most of you did not know but I did, and he had a big impact on St. Thomas Aquinas.
Two weeks ago, I spent 24 hours in Portland, Oregon for the funeral Mass for Bill Chambers. I first met Bill about 26 years ago since he was an Iowa State alum who would come back and visit Fr. Supple, our founding pastor. Our paths crossed again when I was in Mason City and he showed up at Mass there. I did not know he grew up at Holy Family where I was pastor, and he was in town for a high school reunion. Then we connected again when i returned to St. Thomas, and he served on our Supple endowment board.
I went to Portland simply to say thank you. You see, Bill was Mr. St. Jude. Let me explain. Bill graduated from Iowa State and then served in the army. When that ended he was flat broke and had no good leads for a job. He remembered Fr. Supple saying that when all looks lost, pray to St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes, so he did. Bill ended up with a really good job, and he advanced in it throughout his career, retiring from the same company.
Bill called Fr. Supple and said that he realized that all this blessing was from God, and told him that he felt like there is something he needed to do so thank God. What should he do? Fr. Supple replied, "Well, send me money!" So in 1977, Bill started the St. Jude scholarship fund, which gives out scholarships to seven of our student leaders each year. Since 1977, 220 ISU students have received help from St. Jude.
We learn generosity not from books or programs or even homilies. We learn generosity from other disciples. In my time with his family, I learned something about Bill I did not know, and that was he was crazy generous to lots of other people, not just us.
We know what Bill did, but just as important is why he did what he did. I was able to speak at the funeral, and quoted an old saying that says, "Count your blessings, and make your blessings count." Bill did both exceptionally well. Bill went to daily Mass every morning, and so he came to see his life as gift and not possession (and there is huge difference between those two.) Bill figured out what many do not, that all of life and life's blessings are gifts, not possessions, and they are meant to be given away in love. That is what life is all about.
In the second reading, St. Paul speaks of an encouragement and strength which comes from Jesus. Encouragement and strength to do what? To become a disciple. Mature discipleship is not a matter of adding, but of subtracting. Throughout our lives, discipleship involves letting go. Letting go of resentments and worry. Letting go of our ego and desire to control. And yes, letting go of our possessions, sort of a dress rehearsal for the moment of our own death.
It is true that sacrificial giving is giving to a need. It takes a lot for all the many ministries in our parish to happen, more than one might imagine. And I daily see lots of gathering, transforming and sending happening in our parish, more than one might imagine.
Today as pastor I want to thank you for your faithful stewardship throughout the year. And I can tell you that our parish leadership strives to be good stewards of your gifts. They won't even let me supersize my happy meal at McDonald's!
Because everyone is important, and because everyone is needed, we ask that each of us, resident and student parishioners alike, take home the card you were handed when you came into the church. Pray about it, and then make a commitment to give as a disciple of Jesus. No one will ever see what you write down, you do not return them to us, and there is no big database at the Vatican that we put these in. It is between you and the Lord.
We give to a need, but as Bill and many others have shown me, we also need to give. Generosity is not optional for a disciple of Jesus.
Bill was a remarkable person, and I was privileged to know him. He saw his life and all of life's blessings as gifts, not possessions. He counted his blessings, and he certainly made his blessings count. May our Eucharist today shape us to become generous, and so joyful, just like Bill.