Parish Tithing Through the Annual Catholic Appeal
In today’s Gospel our Lord warns us: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). Jesus criticized the scribes and Pharisees for relaxing the commandments (see Matthew 5:19) and for appearing to be good and “holy:” “outwardly [you] appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28), “full of extortion and wickedness” (Luke 11:39). We have to do better than that. What God really wants is our whole heart, mind, strength, and soul.
To truly love God, we need to fulfill all the Commandments. We also need to use our gifts and talents to serve the one we love. The kind of righteousness that God wants from us is the loving generosity of a total gift of self, to love him as Christ has loved us by dying on the Cross.
In the Old Testament, God commanded the people through Moses to set aside one tenth of all the produce of their land or of the animals of their flocks as holy, dedicated to the worship of God (see Leviticus 27:30-34). This tithe was entrusted to the Levite priests (see Numbers 18:24), who would in turn sacrifice a “tithe of the tithe” (Numbers 18:26) as their collective worship of God.
But the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees entailed tithing (give 10 percent) on silly, little things: “But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Luke 11:42).
Jesus wants us to do more than this. He gives us an example to follow when he praises the Widow who gives everything—little compared to the gifts of the rich, but big in the eyes of God: “[Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she had’” (Luke 21:1-4).
As God has been good to us at St. Mary of the Angels, the Priest Council has decided to use the Annual Catholic Appeal as our collective worship to God, sacrificing the parish rebate for works of mercy. This will be our parish’s “tithe of the tithe.” The first $30,000 of our parish’s donation to Annual Catholic Appeal will be used to support poorer parishes and schools—locally and abroad—(give alms to the poor), formation of laity and priests (instruct the ignorant) and for prison ministry (visit the sick and imprisoned). Donations beyond this $30,000 will go to the Fr. Hilary Mahaney Scholarship Fund, providing education to children of our parishioners who have large families or who can’t afford the full costs of Catholic education (more instructing the ignorant).
As we prepare to make our commitment to financially support works of mercy through this years Annual Catholic Appeal—as you discuss your family’s contribution—consider the many good things you have received from God is the past year: What has God given me? What do I have that I have not received? (1 Corinthians 4:7). Let us not be like the Scribes and Pharisees, but make a gift that shows God real righteousness, true holiness, a generosity that gives itself away for love.
We ask our Blessed Mother, St. Mary of the Angels, to inspire each of our parishioners to respond with generosity.
Fr. John R. Waiss
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