Sunday, October 27, 2013

Combat entitlement with service: 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

            A week and a half ago we had our first meeting for the Pope Francis Commission.  Fr. Rich and I were inspired first by how many people showed up and second, by how much service our parishioners volunteer in our parish and community.  One of the main objectives of our group is to get everyone on the same page in serving.  Having been part of this parish for several years, I have known about many of these.  Our youth programs—Sunday School, Junior High and Senior High—are all dependent on volunteer teachers.  (For the first time this year our high school seniors are leading junior high small groups).  One of our parishioners retired from her job in order to volunteer daily at our school.  We have programs like the Giving Tree, CHUM dinner and are active in the pro-life scene in Duluth.
            What I didn’t know was some of the devoted individuals and the work they are doing now.  For instance, one of our parishioners volunteers most days at the Union Gospel Mission—serving lunch or dinner.  Another spends time daily at our local hospitals.  Still others bring Communion to the elderly and homebound or bring them to Mass.
            Keep your eyes and ears open as the goal of our Commission is to make service opportunities well known and easy to fulfill and help where you can.
            The last few weeks we have been hearing a lot about serving the poor.  I think this is intentional as we are nearing the end of the liturgical year—we proclaim a preferential option for the poor and such opportunities must always be on our mind.  Today the book of Sirach states, “The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites…he hears the cry of the oppressed.”  We also sang from the Psalms, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
            The Gospel sheds light on a similar theme—entitlement.  I almost laughed reading the Gospel—this Pharisee bragging to God about all the good he has done!  What does he think, God is in heaven stating, “Pin the blue ribbon on this Pharisee’s chest!  This is the best yet!”?  It was the tax-collector who left right with God—“O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
            I hope no one here thinks you are entitled to God’s love or salvation.  At the spiritual level, I don’t think too many overtly sin as the Pharisee did.  Yet as American citizens many of us do think we are entitled to material things.  We almost can’t help it as living in a society is like a fish living in an aquarium that breathes in its surroundings and entitlement is all around us. 
For example—and not to pick on our young people—how often do your children complain around the house?  Last week I spoke to one of our small groups about this as they prepared to go to Confession.  As we hit the fourth commandment I asked them, “Have any of you ever bought groceries for your family?  Have you paid a mortgage?  Bought gas?  Paid for insurance?  Everything you have came from your parents and for this alone you owe them obedience and respect.”
            The same is true with God.  Everything you have—job, paycheck, house, vehicle—is a gift from God. 
            The way to avoid the entitlement plague is to give of yourself to others.  Spending time with the poor not only helps them but also helps you to recognize the gifts you have and to discern how you can give more. 
            We thank God for the abundance of blessings He has poured upon us and we ask for the grace to avoid entitlement by serving those in need. 

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