From the Heart of the Shepherd
By Fr. David Hottinger, PES - Pastor
From the bulletin for the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time (October 15, 2023)
Stewardship: Part Three
Over the years, you pick up various prayers to “fill in” or rather give words to the silent spaces in the Mass. For example, at some stage in life I learned to say before the first reading the prayer of St. Ephrem, “Lord open the eyes and ears of my heart, that I may understand your oracles and perform your Holy Will.” As a layman, I’d also say a Hail Mary for the celebrant after each Mass, trying to squeeze it in (don’t ask me why) between the priest’s kissing of the altar and his exiting stage left into the sacristy. And for the offertory, while the priest is preparing the gifts, there is a beautiful short prayer from I don’t know where that I still say when concelebrating: “My God, I offer to you all that I am, all that I have, and all that I can do out of love for you.”
I think that last prayer sums up the spirituality of Stewardship in a nutshell. “All that I am” we give to God by spending time with Him. “All that I have” we will talk about next week when it comes to how we devote our material treasure for the sake of the Kingdom. “All that I can do”: this is about the employment of our talents in the “performance of God’s holy will.” And we know what God’s will is: “that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4)
When we refer to “talents”, we mean more than just skills or abilities. More, too, than just doing things. Really, it’s about personal engagement with the life of the parish. It’s about opening our hearts and our calendars to a meaningful encounter with other parishioners, as well as becoming those parishioners through whom outsiders come to encounter our parish (and Christ within it!).
And so, think of devoting “talent” to God as a two way street. First, we need to engage the life of the parish so as to open our hearts to others to be known and formed and enriched. Second, we need to engage the mission of the parish so as to serve, give back, and bear fruit. In the first movement we allow our gifts to be discovered and made known; in the second we employ them in the service of the Kingdom.
Regarding that first movement, next spring we expect to be rolling out a key opportunity for all to share their hearts and engage the parish communion through small groups. Add to that our existing fellowship and enrichment opportunities such as the Bible Study and existing small group ministries. Regarding that second movement, one need only take a look at our ministry map below to see that opportunities already abound! For those looking to get more engaged, all that is needed is a little discernment of where your talents and interests intersect with the opportunities and needs present in our community.
I want to draw attention, however, to one need/opportunity (among so many!) that you will be hearing about more fully come November. One of our core values here at St. Mark’s is “service to those in material or spiritual need.” We have a long history of providing that Christian witness as a parish. For the last couple of years, parishioners and parish leadership have been developing an initiative that will help us do that even better, and in a way that engages even more of the parish community. So when we roll out MercyWorks this November, please pay attention! Our hope is that this be a way we live out the effective love of Christ in a way that helps our neighbors in need “come to knowledge of the Truth” and experience its saving power.
Speaking of things to come, this week you should receive by email a link to the Time & Talent pledge. This is an essential part of our Month of Stewardship, every bit as important (and in fact more so) than the Financial Pledge we will be making at the end of the month. So please click the link and fill out the pledge form (one per parishioner). While it helps to communicate new ministry interest to our various apostolates, its primary purpose is for you, as a way of concretizing and committing to the various ways you intent to offer to God “all that you are and all that you can do.”