Our Offerings in the Parish
Romans 14:1-4,12-13,19; 15:1-6
As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.
So each of us shall give account of himself to God. Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.. .Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him.. .For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Reflections on the Text
Each person offers to the extent he or she is capable, which is known “only in the secret heart. “If the gift or offering is true and sincere it is known by its fruit, which is love (I Cor. 13:1—10).
For many of us the parish is the first community beyond our family wherein we experience the Christian faith. The parish is where we are nourished in the faith through participation in the sacraments and through relationships with those who confess the same faith. Yet it is also in these relationships that we encounter ways of living the Christian life that differ from our own. These encounters often challenge our faith and our understanding of the Christian experience. Our response to these encounters can become opportunities for us to grow closer to Christ, and to search for harmony with one another. Conversely, our response can also lead to division, judgment or conceit.
The first portion of the selected passage is read on Forgiveness Sunday to help prepare us for our relations with our fellow Christians during the Great Fast. St. Paul provides us with an example of such occasions when our offerings, like fasting, may appear to conflict with the offerings of others. Yet the Apostle cautions us against casting judgment upon the other. Christ is the Lord “both of the living and the dead,” “if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord: so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” If our gifts are truly “of the Spirit,” they glorify God and “please his neighbor for his good, to edify him.” In offering our gifts we must build up and not tear down. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”
In a real sense our participation in the sacraments in our parish become opportunities for us to share our gifts, to make our offerings “on behalf of all and for all.” The sacraments are opportunities for us to relate to others. The rite of confession, for example, is more than simply a disclosure of wrong doings. It is an opportunity to rectify and clarify relationships. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24).
Relating the Bible to Our Lives
- What are the ways we can offer ourselves and our gifts in our parish? (e.g., Parish ministries: administration, liturgical singing, visiting the sick, Christian education, youth work, humanitarian aid, maintaining the church, etc.)
- How does our parish community encourage us to offer ourselves? Other than general announcements made by the priest, how do we approach people about using their gifts?
- How do we help others to know about and understand that there are places and people who could use help? What in our community might deter someone from offering their help? What can we do to change that?
- How do our attitudes about financially supporting the Church reflect the idea of offering our self and our gifts? As a parish, what changes can we make to better reflect this orientation?
- Are there times when one person’s offering might conflict with another’s? When? Are there times when it would be better to suppress our offering? When?
- What criteria should we consider when we want to offer our self and our gifts to our parish community?
- What attitudes should we look for in our self? What attitudes should cause us to rethink what we are planning to do? Reflecting on these attitudes, take a few minutes to think about and write down some specific ways you think you could better offer yourself and your gifts in your community.