From the Pastor: Holy Lottery Winnings!
It is my great pleasure to tell you that two of our parishioners have won the two large lottery jackpots from last week. Mega Millions winning numbers to the tune of $450,000,000 were picked at a convenience store in Pasco County. As you know, most of our parishioners drive quite a distance to attend the Traditional Latin Mass at Epiphany, so it should be no surprise that the winning ticket was purchased at a place nearly an hour drive away. The parishioner has not yet claimed (as of the writing of this column, anyway) the money but I am sure that we will soon be the beneficiaries of a sizable tithe. A bit further away, in New Hampshire, the Powerball numbers were picked on our parish feast day, January 6, with the jackpot listed as five-hundred and seventy million dollars. Since the numbers were drawn on the real Epiphany, I am sure that this winning ticket, too, must have been bought by one of our parishioners. I don’t know of anyone who commutes quite that far to attend Mass here, so I can only assume that the ticket must have been obtained by one of our members while they were traveling, be it for a job or vacation. Either way, I am expecting this second, and slightly larger, tithe check to be showing up in the collection basket soon.
In case the two winners are reading this before they have gotten around to writing out the checks, this is a good time to answer a few common questions about tithing. Question number one: How much money does the Church expect me to put in the collection basket? Answer: You are asking a good question but asking it in a less than perfect way. A better way of phrasing this would be: How much money does GOD expect me to put in the collection basket? You see, although what the Church expects is the same as what God expects, for His Bride speaks on His behalf, it is, in our fallen state, easier to make excuses for not tithing to the Church (look at all the wealth She has in art treasures, the Bishop just wastes our money, etc.) than it is to make excuses for not tithing to God. After all, nobody wants to approach the Judgment Seat of God with a wad of money clutched in their cold, dead fingers stammering, “Here, Jesus, you can have it after all. You get whatever I didn’t use. No, no, no, it’s not a bribe. I just thought...” So, how much does He want you to give? Although there are no hard and fast rules of which I am aware (beyond, obviously, one of the precepts of the Church, namely, “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church”), the Biblical tithe was always 10%, and that was from the first-fruits, not the leftovers, plus almsgiving. The next question which always follows that (right after, “You are kidding, right? 10 percent? That’s nuts!”) is usually, “Is that before or after taxes?” I usually just laugh at that, because if someone doesn’t even know what percentage of their income they tithe right now (using the word “tithe” as the amount of money they put in the collection basket on Sundays, Holy Days, and special collections) it is a bit silly to start obsessing over pre- or post- tax issues! As for the lottery winners, even assuming that Uncle Sam managed to take half of what they thought they were getting, they certainly cannot use that as an excuse to “nickel and dime” God (and HIs Church) to death (so to speak) as if their paltry remaining hundreds of millions of dollars might not be enough for both them and the Church!
Seriously, though, what do you think the average person, even the above average Catholic, would think about tithing after “hitting it big” when they normally tithed only as an afterthought? When they opened their wallet every week or three, surprised once again that a collection was being taken up, and checked (almost secretly) to see if they had any bills smaller than a twenty left in there to wad up and toss into the basket so that they wouldn’t have the embarrassment of having to dig for a few coins to deposit? I am guessing that a $500 dollar check might be all that could be expected from such a good, religious lottery winner. But I am sure that is not going to be the case with our two winners. Folks at Epiphany put God first in all things!
Just for a point of reference for how cheap some people are, there was a recent report of a woman who took her dead Christmas tree back to Costco after the first of the year and demanded (and got!) a refund, since it didn’t stay alive as long as she thought it should have. Fortunately, she must not have been Catholic, or that would have been in the headline! Anyway, if you see either of our lottery winners, let them know that I am waiting for their checks!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka