The Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
World Mission Day 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today we heard again the famous saying of Jesus, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:21). It is easy enough to determine what belongs to Caesar – that is, to the government of the day – but what is that belongs to God? What belongs to God “is the human person, who bears the image of the living God” (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). Consequently, “our highest obligation in life – and one that is imposed on every man, woman, and child, regardless of nationality or citizenship – is to give ourselves back to our Maker.”
As a means of helping us learn how to give
ourselves back to God, each parish in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois is
beginning a Season of Stewardship, a time in which every parish household – and
everyone in each household - is asked to prayerfully discern their gifts of
stewardship not only as given to the local parish, but also as given toward the
apostolic work of the Diocese as a whole. Such a stewardship naturally involves
an individual’s and a family’s willing and eager use of time, talent, and
Now, before you stop listening to me altogether,
stewardship is not simply about money, nor is this homily about money. While it
is true that stewardship involves money, it is also true that stewardship is much
more about living fully as a committed disciple of Jesus Christ; stewardship
entails how I respond to the call of the Lord Jesus to give myself to back God
in every aspect of my life and at every moment of my life.
Thinking about giving myself back to God
is easy on a theoretical level, but how we do so on a practical level? If I am studying,
whether at home or at school, I can seek to learn about the world around us so
that we might better know God who created it. If I am a mother of small children,
I can care for them and love them as if I were caring for the Child of Bethlehem
and thank God for being entrusted with such precious gifts. If I am at work I
can greet each person who comes to me as if I they were Christ. I can give to
God all of my joys and happiness, and even give my woundedness and sorrows, as
If we are to live in such a way that we
recognize everything we have in this life is a gift from God, we would do well
to ask ourselves a few questions recommended by Pope Francis. The Holy Father
reminds us that the mission of stewardship “is a free and conscious response to
God’s call. Yet,” he says, “we discern this call only when we have a personal
relationship of love with Jesus present in his Church.”
Therefore, he says,
Let us ask
ourselves: are we prepared to welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit in our
lives, to listen to the call to mission … in all the everyday events of life?
Are we willing to be sent forth at any time or place to witness to our faith in
God the merciful Father, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ,
to share the divine life of the Holy Spirit by building up the Church? Are we,
like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, ready to be completely at the service of God’s
will (cf. Lk 1:38)? This interior openness is essential if we
are to say to God: “Here am I, Lord, send me” (cf. Is 6:8).
And this, not in the abstract, but in this chapter of the life of the Church
and of history.
In light of these questions and in light
of Jesus’ command to give ourselves back completely to the Father, Bishop Paprocki
has invited every Catholic in these twenty-eight central counties in Illinois
to recommit ourselves – or, perhaps, to commit ourselves for the first time –
to using our time, talent, and treasure in the service of the Church. Doing so
requires a resolve to no longer live for oneself, but to live for God and to
live for others.
Three years ago, Bishop Paprocki convoked
the Fourth Synod of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and invited
representatives from every parish in the diocese to discern how we, both collectively
and individually, will share in the mission of Jesus.
In the sacrifice of the cross, where the mission of Jesus is
fully accomplished (cf. Jn 19:28-30),
God shows us that his love is for each and every one of us (cf. Jn 19:26-27). He asks us to be personally willing to be
sent, because he himself is Love, love that is always “on mission”, always
reaching out in order to give life. Out of his love for us, God the Father sent
his Son Jesus (cf. Jn 3:16). Jesus
is the Father’s Missionary: his life and ministry reveal his total obedience to
the Father’s will (cf. Jn 4:34; 6:38;
8:12-30; Heb 10:5-10). Jesus, crucified and risen for us, draws us
in turn into his mission of love, and with his Spirit which enlivens the
Church, he makes us his disciples and sends us on a mission to the world and to
The Synod proposed twelve declarations to
be discussed within the synodal sessions and which we adopted by Bishop Paprocki.
These Declarations now form the road map, if you will, for the future.
The first Declaration turned our eyes to
the future by giving us the mission to “to build a fervent community of
intentional and dedicated missionary disciples of the Risen Lord and steadfast
stewards of God’s creation who seek to become saints.”
The last three Declarations help us see how we can become dedicated missionary
disciples and steadfast stewards. The tenth Declaration reminds us that “the
community of Catholic faithful recognizes that everything we have comes from
God and that He has given us gifts not just to use them for ourselves but also
to share them with others.” As a means toward this sharing of our gifts with
others, the eleventh statute says:
Trusting in God’s
providence and giving according to their means, the Catholic faithful of the
Diocese of Springfield in Illinois are called to lives as disciples of Our Lord
Jesus Christ by giving of their time and talent and striving to fulfill the Biblical
command to tithe by donating the suggested amount of at least 8% of their
income to their parishes and 2% to other charities as an expression of their
gratitude to God and of their stewardship of His manifold gifts of creation.
The twelfth Declaration establishes that parishes
“shall tithe approximately 10% of their designated annual income to the Diocese…”
You should have received a letter from Bishop Paprocki in the last few days regarding
this last Declaration.
Now, before you say, “Father, I thought
you said stewardship isn’t just about money?” I maintain that statement and
point out the other Synodal Declarations were about inviting people to discipleship
and stewardship, a relationship with Jesus Christ, being committed to the Catholic
faith, being formed in the Catholic life, the reception of the Sacraments of
Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, Catholic education, the proper
celebration of the Mass, and the art of dying in God’s grace. Bishop Paprocki
is now calling us to realize this goal through this Season of Stewardship.
Taken together and separately, each
declaration concerns a lift of stewardship and the various ways we give ourselves
back to God. Now is the time to ask ourselves: Am I using my time, talent, and
treasure in meaningless pursuits, or am I using them in the service of the
Gospel? Let us help one another to recognize that “Life itself, as a gift freely received, is implicitly an
invitation to this gift of self,” so that having recognized this we will
strive to help each other give ourselves back to God. Amen.
 Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, Catholic
Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids,
Michigan: Baker Academic, 2010), 286.
 Pope Francis, Message for World
Mission Day 2020.
 2017 Synodal Declarations, Diocese
of Springfield in Illinois, 1.
 Pope Francis, Message for World
Mission Day 2020.