Today is Meatfare Sunday, also referred to as the Sunday of the Last Judgment. The Gospel reading for today (Matthew 25:31-46) provides us with many examples where Christ has illustrated that when our brothers and sisters are in need and we fail or refuse to help them, we are failing and refusing to help Christ. “Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”
St. John Chrysostom in his Homily LXXIX on Matthew 25 says… “And in return for what do they receive such things? For the covering of a roof, for a garment, for bread, for cold water, for visiting, for going into the prison. For indeed in every case it is for what is needed; and sometimes not even for that. For surely, as I have said, the sick and he that is in bonds seeks not for this only, but the one to be loosed, the other to be delivered from his infirmity. But He, being gracious, requires only what is within our power, or rather even less than what is within our power, leaving to us to exert our generosity in doing more.”
God asks us to provide for our Church through the Stewardship of Time, Talents and Treasures but God also reminds us that to be gracious “requires only what is within our power” – we must give freely from our heart, unconditionally and in any way that we can to help our Church, those in need and the many ministries that our parish provides.
During this time of year, I think about Stewardship and doing more, especially during Great Lent. I set some goals, involve my family and try to make a difference. The key is in the action… all of the goals, objectives and planning won’t mean much without the execution. In Father Tom Hopko’s book, The Lenten Spring, he says “According to the Scriptures, the giving of one’s possessions to satisfy the need of others is the most concrete expression of faith and of love. A person who claims to believe in God but does not help the needy has no living faith.”
This is confirmed through James 2:14-17: 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Goals for Great Lent 2018 (as recommended by the Holy Fathers):
- Inward reflection
- Confession of sins
- Conversion of the heart
- Renewal of the mind
Let him hear from Him who will judge him and requite every man according to his works… but Christ has taken that which the devil through covetousness has wrought against us for our perdition and through almsgiving has turned to our good to make it rebound for our salvation… for he who has wealth hoarded up cannot hope in God, as is clear from Christ our God has said “where your treasure is, your heart will be also (Luke 12:34)
St. Symeon the New Theologian
Throughout our lives, we bear witness to our faith, core beliefs and values – how we act and interact on a daily basis. As St. John Chrysostom reflects… “Then, they say, show it by your works. For your life testifies of the opposite – that you do not believe. We, and not just the martyrs, will be witnesses for Christ. They are called martyrs because they endured everything to speak the truth when told to reject the faith. So, we must not be overcome when our passions tell us to reject Him.”
We are approaching the Lenten Triodion – four Sundays that precede the beginning of Great Lent. Let us focus on Stewardship as a beneficial and transformational change in our lives, especially by showing it through our works!
God has distributed gifts and blessings in such a way that every person has a particular place and purpose within society – and thus, everyone is equally necessary for a society to function well. So do not resent the fact that someone is more intelligent or stronger than you are. Instead, give thanks for their intelligence and strength, from which you benefit. And then ask yourself “What is my gift and what is my place in society?” When you have answered this question and act according to your answer, all contempt and resentment will melt away!
St. John Chrysostom
How absurd it would be to grasp at money and throw away health; and to be lavish of the cleansing of the body, but economical over the cleansing of the soul; and to seek for freedom from earthly slavery, but not to care about heavenly freedom; and to make every effort to be splendidly housed and dressed, but to have never a thought how you yourself may become really very precious; and to be zealous to do good to others, without any desire to do good to yourself. And if good could be bought, you would spare no money; but if mercy is freely at your feet, you despise it for its cheapness. Every time is suitable to cleanse yourself, since any time may be your death. With Paul I shout to you with that loud voice, “Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation; and that now does not point to any one time, but is every present moment. And again “Awake, thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light, dispelling the darkness of sin.
St. Gregory Nazianzen
When a tailor makes and sells a garment, only one service is performed, that of putting clothes on the body. The same is true of the cobbler making and selling a pair of shoes; the only service in this case is to put shoes on the feet. But when a person makes a gift to another person, of money or some object, a double service is performed. First, the receiver derives a material benefit from the gift. Second, the giver derives a spiritual benefit because this act of generosity would have brought a blessing to his soul. And there can be a third service: if the receiver is filled with humble gratitude, that will be a blessing to the person’s soul. Imagine a society in which no one sold anything but everyone shared freely their skills and wealth. Then every action in that society would bring not only material benefits, but spiritual benefits also. Such societies already exist in miniature; families operate in this way. How wonderful it would be if villages and towns could become like large families. Then Heaven would come down to earth.
St John Chrysostom
Have a blessed Christmas and allow Stewardship to bring Heaven to earth!