Doing well and doing good

With 34 years of active ministry involving parishes and schools — and with more than a dozen years leading a not-for-profit agency building affordable housing, I know well the dependence on the generosity of  others.  Fundraising events, requests for donations, and grant applications are based on a hope that others will share in the good work of the Church and community organizations.  Such action cannot decry wealth as bad or evil.

I have often repeated a line that I learned from a person of wealth — You must do well before you can do good.  How true that is!  To whom do we turn when seeking help for a project? People who have money or contact with those who have money.

When the Bible teaches that “You cannot serve both God and Mammon,” [Luke 16: 1-13], we are being reminded that GREED not MONEY is the evil we must avoid.

Shift to the Scripture reading from the Hebrew Scripture — Amos: 8:4-7 — and we hear EXACTLY what Pope Francis is talking about when he says to focus on people and not restrictive rules.  Amos relates a story about merchants following the rules on the Sabbath, but who are eager for the Sabbath to end so they could fix the scales for cheating and sell the worthless wheat to the poor.  Being “holy” and “pious” on Sunday during mass is NOT what our religion or our Church is about!  We should not be  different by the way we dress, but by the way we act.  Arguing over the hot-button issues of abortion, contraception, and gay-rights is NOT what we need to be talking about.  Small-minded rules make us un-welcoming.

OBAMA-CARE might not be perfect — it may have serious problems.  BUT, when millions of people are without insurance, repealing it is not what we do — we FIX IT.  Instead of arguing about whether insurance plans include coverage of birth-control pills, argue about why a visit to an emergency room could cost $7,000.  [Real example from a family member who went to a local emergency room three weeks ago, never saw a doctor, and was not admitted to the hospital.]

ALL OF US HAVE HAD SERIOUS DEBT FORGIVEN by a merciful and compassionate God.  ALL OF US HAVE ESCAPED HARM because God was watching over us.  Now God calls us to focus our hearts — set as a priority — the needs of others.

COSTCO has set a model for other BIG-BOX stores to follow.  Yes, they make money.  But, they have set a lower profit margin than most major chains.  By doing so, they generally pay higher wages, offer more full-time jobs, and offer greater benefits to employees.  As a result, they keep employees much longer than other big-box stores.  At some point the Board of Directors had to decide, “enough is enough”.  We have made our money — it is time not to just keep making money to make MORE.

Quite simply, we are saying:  it is not what we have that is the problem.  It is how we use what we have.  As Pastor of a Church, as Director of Catholic Charities, as President of a non-profit, as an employee of our local charter schools — when I need financial support — to whom do I turn?  PEOPLE WITH MONEY.  More times than not, offer people a worthy cause, assure them the cause is trustworthy and help will follow.

Pope Francis warned the Church this week that the moral authority of the Church is at risk — live what we preach or risk falling like a “house of cards.”

The Church is me — it is you — it is us.  The Church is the larger body and it is our local community.  At home and here:  what percentage of our money is budgeted to assist the hungry, the homeless, those in need of medical care?

Compare what we spend on dining out — to what we are willing to spend to help others at Christmas or Thanksgiving?

What is the special cause of our heart:  scouting, education, big brothers-big sisters, housing, cancer research?  If we believe we cannot help everyone, then who/what are we helping?

At work this week, someone mentioned that she had heard on the radio that there were 13 Saturdays left before Christmas.  Many stores already have Christmas stuff out.  If we PLAN already for Christmas, then just maybe we can plan for how we will help someone.

At times all of us have walked by people in need — including me.  The other day I was at Wendy’s ….. while I was waiting for my order, an older lady placed her order, but she was short $2.  It cost me NOTHING to give her the $2.  I certainly did not miss the $2.

There is no shame in doing well.  We have to do well to do good.  Let’s “buy in” to the who equation   —- doing well requires us to do good.


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