By JoAnn Shull
Earlier this month, I spent several days at the SEEK conference in Indianapolis, sponsored by FOCUS. Over 17,000 college students came together to pray, to study, and to discern. If you were ever fearful that the Church is dying, I beg you to look up some of the YouTube videos to see how on fire our young Church can be.
Being a conference primarily directed at college students, you can imagine that many of the talks focused around some of the hot button issues facing young adults. There were talks on sexuality, on dating and marriage, on pornography, on self-worth, and on addiction. In many ways, these talks focused on the body; specifically, how the Lord calls us to be good stewards of our body and to use it to glorify His name.
I also went to a talk titled, “God Wants You to Have an Estate Plan.” Working in development, I was naturally curious how the speakers were going to relate this to the collegiate audience — and if any college students were going to show up! To my surprise (and to the speakers’, as I later found out), over 200 young adults filled the room to learn what God had to say about their finances.
Although they did go over estate planning 101, what I found interesting was how the speaker tied this into the life of a college student. In summary, he explained it in this way:
We often talk in our Church about being good stewards of our bodies. We want to take care of ourselves and free ourselves from those things which destroy or misuse the gift that God has given us. That’s why we work to liberate ourselves from bodily sins and live in ways that God intended us to live. This leads to healthy relationships, fruitful marriages, and communities where we care about our neighbors.
In the same way, we are called to be stewards of all the gifts God has given us — our bodies as well as those things we possess. Just as God wants us to give Him all of ourselves — not just a part — He wants us to utilize all of our gifts for His glory. So, as we go through life and accumulate possessions and wealth, we should be always aware of how those items are gifts from the Lord. When we view our worldly belongings as a gift from the Lord, we free ourselves from unhealthy attachment and greed. In giving of our gifts, we better our Church, our community, and our world and participate in bringing about the kingdom of God.
Next week at all Masses, Fr. Rich will be asking you to discern how you are being called to give of your gifts to the Church. You will also receive a mailing from the parish this week which will allow you to preview this message and contemplate your response. This process begins with discerning how we can move our hearts and our community into deeper relationship with God.
As part of the renewal program, this of course includes a look at your financial contributions to the parish. Although this is not the only way that one can measure their return of gifts to the Lord, it is a good place to start your discernment. When we make giving a priority in our budget, that trickles out into how we spend our money and, ultimately, the choices we make in our life.
So, whether you discern that you are called to increase, maintain, or decrease your gift, I challenge you to search within your heart to listen to how the Lord is calling you.
Returning your intention card next week is not only a way to help you discern your own gifts, but also it allows the parish to plan for the future. In this next week, I ask you to spend time in prayer and discussion about your current level of giving and engagement in the parish community. How is He calling you as a disciple to pray, to study, and to serve?