A Heads Up
When I was given leadership of our parish last year, I committed to leading us into a new season of growth. For many of us though, our experience of church in the past 30-40 years is one of decline and our greatest source of pain is that our children and grandchildren no longer practice the faith we passed on to them. Committing to growth, however, ensures that our hearts are better prepared to discern and receive what the Holy Spirit is asking of us at this time. What’s exciting about this new season of growth is that we have an entire workforce of parishioners just waiting to be mobilised and unleashed into the mission-field of our community.
The mission of the Church – which is to say, the mission of both the first Christian and us, by virtue of our baptism – was and still is to go and share the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church is called to be a light of faith in the community; to go out to reach the world because the world will not come to us. Our Parish and our many parish ministries are a response to that call and exemplify that God’s work is being done. This new season of growth will, however, need your support and financial resources.
While our parish broke even last year in what we received versus what we spent, it will be necessary, as we move forward, to grow our budget for evangelisation (accompanying others into a relationship with Jesus). Last year, 4% of our annual income was spent on evangelisation – programs and people taking the Good News from our churches and into the community. This is an okay start, but I would love to see this number grow significantly over the next 12 months. Growing our budget for evangelisation is a direct reflection of our efforts as a parish to perform our primary reason for existing – as Pope Paul VI said in 1975, “The Church exists to evangelise.”
Over two consecutive Sundays in a row during Lent, you will be hearing about the theme of giving in homilies from Fr Francis and myself. (Unfortunately we have lost Fr Ejikeme for the next month as he’s been seconded to Ipswich to assist – but he will be back!). Giving is something we don’t often hear about in homilies, but did you know that behind the theme of the Kingdom of God, charity/money was Jesus’ number two topic to talk about. Indeed, 2350 verses in the Bible deal with money, while 850 of those deal with personal finances.
Giving is about recognising the blessings God has given us and offering our gratitude to the Lord in return. In giving, we actually transform our own hearts; letting go of what we hold on to, in order to receive. I know that for a long time in my life, I pursued happiness through money – particularly working in the mines in WA – but as Viktor Frankl poignantly stated, “We cannot pursue happiness – happiness ensues when we give ourselves away to others.”
In discussing giving for two weeks in a row in each community, we will not only normalise this sometimes hot-button topic, but begin to develop a culture of generosity where it’s normal to talk about money. If the Gospels, and Paul’s letters, show us one thing, it is that the mission (evangelisation) costs money. Jesus’ own missionary activity was funded by generous women – Mary, Joanna, Susanna and others – who faithfully followed him, bankrolling the mission (Luke 8:1-3). Paul, on the other hand, uniquely articulated that the primary benefit and blessing of giving actually belongs to the giver! “For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account” (Philippians 4:16-17).
My prayer over this two-week preaching series is that you will see this as an opportunity to grow in holiness. Yes, we’ll be talking about what any extra money will be spent on, but the primary reason for preaching about giving is that it is good for the giver – and what better season to have this conversation than the season of Lent.
May God bless your Lenten journey!