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Homily for Stewardship Day Mass

...we are that steward!

By Bishop Larry Silva
February 17, 2018

Mass for Stewardship Day; Saturday after Ash Wednesday – February 17, 2018
[Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa] 

Once upon a time a king ordered that a great feast be held.  He had his chancellor write up a note to the chief banquet steward that on a certain night he was to prepare a great feast in the royal banquet hall, filling it to its fullest capacity.  The diligent steward immediately began planning the feast.  He lined up all the servants needed to polish the silverware, prepare the finest place settings, and decorate the dining room.  He arranged for musicians to entertain throughout the night, and carefully planned the menu with the royal chef.  All was prepared, and the chief banquet steward was very pleased that he would once again be able to serve the king and his guests in a truly royal style. 

The morning of the banquet the chancellor went to the banquet hall to look over the preparations.  He was shocked to find that the banquet hall was empty.  He quickly located the chief banquet steward and asked why the banquet hall was not yet set up.  The steward’s face blanched, and his eyes popped out of his head in disbelief.  He retrieved the note ordering the banquet and to his shock realized he had misread it.  Instead of asking that the royal dining room be prepared to its capacity of about 30, the note ordered that the royal banquet hall be prepared with its capacity of about 300.  He could not believe his eyes, because he had always set up the dining room and was always praised for the manner in which he did so.  But now on the morning of the banquet he was only prepared to serve one-tenth of the guests the king had invited. 

We might wonder what finally happened when the hour of the banquet arrived, and it is good that we do so, because we are that steward!  We are so diligent and dedicated in serving those who come to us, offering many programs in our parishes for a variety of people and a variety of needs.  We work very hard to make sure there are sufficient ministers of the liturgy who are well trained.  We offer Bible studies in our little conference rooms.  We catechize all the children who come to us.  We think of creative ways we can welcome people when they come.  We are good and dedicated stewards.  But have we not misread the Lord’s “memo” when we focus only on serving those who come to us, rather than going out to the other 90% we seldom see? 

The Pharisees and scribes were indignant, not only that Jesus should call a tax collector to be one of his followers, but that Jesus freely mingled with “their kind” at a banquet.  They thought his ministry should be to those who were obviously devoted to God, who would appreciate a good teaching about the Scriptures, but not to this “riff-raff” who were unholy sinners.  They were good stewards who were ready to serve a banquet in their little closed-off dining room, but Jesus taught them that he had come not for the righteous but to call sinners to repentance. 

As we focus on the Lord’s call to each of us to follow him as his disciples, we know that, like Levi, we are also called to share the good news with others, inviting them to encounter the Lord Jesus in the very big banquet hall of the world in which we live.  Yet sometimes we fail to “read the memo” the Lord has given us to go out to the whole world to tell the good news, and we focus only on those who come to us in the parish. 

I pray that we will expand our horizons to be as broad as the Lord’s horizons.  While sometimes it is good to gather in the little royal dining room of the parish, the Lord wants to invite many into the banquet hall that is the world. 

Some of you have answered the call to work with youth, and we thank you for following the Lord in this most special vocation.  But I have to confess that I sometimes cringe a bit when a Confirmation Director gets up after Confirmation and tells the newly confirmed youth that now they can be lectors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.  It is not that we should not encourage these ministries to be taken up by qualified youth, but there is so much more we should challenge them to do.  Is a classmate struggling with studies?  Could we challenge our youth to notice and to reach out to them to help them in their studies?  Is there someone who is shunned or bullied by others?  Could we challenge our youth to do something to reach out to those who are being shunned or bullied, and even to the bullies?  Do we ask you youth to notice who is hungry and how, and to reach out to them to satisfy their needs?  Could your youth themselves be the stewards who care enough for their marginalized peers that they reach out to them so that they do not end up shooting their schoolmates or harming them in other ways? 

We can have “Welcome Home” programs in our parishes for returning Catholics, and we should provide a special welcome to those who have been away.  But do we simply wait for them to come to us because they have stumbled upon a parish bulletin announcement?  Or do we actively seek them out, and gradually and lovingly reel them in, like the good fishers of men that the Lord calls us to be?  Our own family members, our schoolmates, and our coworkers may not be in the inner circle that comes into the royal dining room of the heavenly King, so he wants us to prepare a larger space in which to provide them welcome, meeting them first where they are. 

We all attend Sunday Mass and come together in the sacrifice of thanksgiving to praise God for all the countless blessings we have received, to rest in him, and to enjoy the feast of Word and sacrament he has prepared for us.  But do we expand our reach to a world that no longer thinks it needs to worship any god but the self; that is therefore demanding and grasping rather than open in humility and thanksgiving?   Or do we simply think about the little group that does come, without giving a thought to the 90% who are not with us to worship and praise God?  Do we fall into the trap of the Pharisees and scribes who think the Holy One is only interested in the holiest people? 

When we live in a world that is so fractured by divisions and lies, is it enough for us to stay only with those who agree with us?  Or are we not called as good stewards “to restore the ancient ruins” and raise up the foundations of ages past by becoming involved in the body politic so that the justice, peace, and love that only God can provide can feed not just some, but all? 

Our parishes are, of course, very important.  In them we encounter the risen Lord in the Eucharist and are formed as his disciples.  Yet if our stewardship is focused only IN the parish and our measure of success is how many people are involved in ministries IN the parish, have we not misread the Lord’s mandate to not just focus on the small numbers who come into that little dining room, but to open wide the doors of the vast banquet hall to which the Lord invites saints and sinners? 

The reason Jesus went into the banquet provided by Levi was to turn hearts and minds so that those who were in that little house would go out to the hall that is as wide as the world itself.  We can be good stewards by ministering only in the parish, but we are not paying full attention to the Lord’s will if our stewardship is confined to the parish.  This is not my idea.  It is the Lord who has sent us out to the whole world.  And as we celebrate you as the good stewards of the Lord – and there is much to celebrate and be grateful for! – we also remember that there are many sick and suffering souls who do not join us in the little dining room of the parish.  We are the most obedient stewards if we prepare for the King of heaven the huge banquet hall where he can touch hurting souls and heal them.