Discerning the right Christmas Offering

Paul Dudzic

The secular spectacle of the holiday season is often a distraction for Catholics who want to focus on the real reason for the season — our Lord’s birth.

This year has provided even more distractions with worries about the pandemic, the election, the economy, and social unrest. The events of 2020 put us back on our heels — and often on our knees in prayer.

Our faith has taught us to trust our Lord as God’s promise remains unchanged since the days of Abraham.

“Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel” (Is 7:14).

As you reflect on this year, you may be inspired to celebrate Christ’s birth with a gift to His Church. There are many ways you can share the prosperity the Lord has bestowed upon you with the ministries and charities around the Archdiocese of Denver.  

The Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal supports over 40 ministries that work each day to extend God’s promise to his believers. We also have our seminaries, the Prophet Elijah House priest’s retirement home, Annunciation Heights summer camp, Seeds of Hope scholarship fund and Centro San Juan Diego for Hispanic outreach.

Here are some questions I often receive from people contemplating a donation to the archdiocese.

Q. How do I decide where to give?

A. Ask God to guide you in your giving and seek his assistance in setting your priorities. Visit websites to see which charitable causes touch your heart.  You can read about the Archdiocese of Denver’s 40 ministries in the Denver Catholic and on the webpage: impact.archden.org/stories. If you want more children to receive a Catholic Education – support Seeds of Hope. If you are concerned about the formation of our priests – support the Seminaries Appeal. What other Archdiocese of Denver ministries inspire you?

Q. How do I determine how much to give?

A. Think about sacrificial giving and have a budget. Your Christmas giving plan can be similar to your budget for your Christmas shopping for family and friends. Make a list. Reflect on a favorite Bible passage or on what matters most to your family as you reflect on your list. 

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least of brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

Q. The more I give, the more I get to deduct on my taxes, right?

A. Yes! This year, the CARES Act added more benefits for your tax deductions when you make a charitable donation. There are also special deductions like the Child Care Tax Credit available for gifts to Annunciation Heights that afford additional tax advantages. You can also give directly from your 401(k) and if you are over 70 and a half years of age, you can make a qualified tax-free distribution from your IRA up to $100,000.  Check with your financial advisor about end-of-year donations and the financial benefits of philanthropy, but God reminds us our ultimate reward is not of this world. 

“Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father” (Mt 6:1). 

Q. Does the Archdiocese offer information to help me plan a donation?

A. If you’d like to discuss a transformational gift to any archdiocese ministry please call me at 720-476-7525. To make a Christmas gift to the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal, visit archden.org/givenow.  You can also discuss the tax benefits of a donor-advised fund or to establish a planned gift by contacting Deacon Steve Stemper at The Catholic Foundation at 303-468-9885 or visit thecatholicfoundation.com.

Q. How do I get others to give too?

A. A charitable spirit doesn’t always mean just a gift of money. Share your joy of Christ’s birth in your messages to your neighbors and friends. Be a bright light in your family and those you love will be reminded of Jesus Christ’s light in their lives. God guided you to give for the right reasons and that will inspire others to do the same. 

COMING UP: Five tips for reading the Word of God

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Sunday, Jan. 24 marks “The Sunday of the Word of God,” instituted by Pope Francis last year and to be held every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time. This may strike us as odd, as we might think to ourselves, “but isn’t the Bible read at every Sunday Mass?” Certainly so. Not only that, but every daily celebration of the Mass proclaims the Word of God.

What’s different about “The Sunday of the Word of God,” however, is that it’s not just about hearing the Bible read on Sundays. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notes, it “reminds us, pastors and faithful alike, of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy: ‘As Christians, we are one people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with Sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by so many forms of blindness.’” This gives us a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on the Sacred Scriptures. 

There are two means by which God Divinely reveals truths to us: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As such, the Bible is not merely a human document, nor simply a collection of amazing stories that call us to do heroic things, or a collection of wise sayings. Rather, the Scriptures are “inspired.” St. Paul has a beautiful teaching about this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.” By “inspired” we mean that God is the principle author of the Bible.

Certainly there were different men who physically wrote the words on the papyrus. Yet these men were influenced by the grace of inspiration to write, not just their own words, but God’s. And so the Scriptures are a mysterious congruence of Divine and human authorship – the human writers capably made full use of language, literary forms, creativity, and writing style to communicate their message, yet they did so under the grace of Divine inspiration. This means that while they wrote in such a way that they had full freedom to write as they wanted, what they wrote was also, “to a tee,” exactly as God wanted written. God is the principle author of the Bible, the human author its secondary writer. Such inspiration is how, despite the various human authors, events, and historical and cultural contexts behind the 73 Biblical texts, we’re still left with only one story since they all have the same one primary author. 

Given that the Bible is the written word of God, I’d like to offer a few “tips” for reading the Bible, since it certainly cannot be read like any other text. 

1. Pray! We must pray before opening the Scriptures for enlightenment from God. We must pray after reading in thanksgiving to God. And we must pray throughout reading in order to encounter God in Scripture and apply it to our life. Of course, the tried and trusted practice of praying the Scriptures is Lectio DivinaThe Ladder of Monks by Guigo II is the ancient resource for Lectio Divina, while a helpful book to get you started is Dr. Tim Gray’s Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina

2. Remember that you are in no rush. The important point is encountering Christ in the Scriptures, not racing through them. Speed reading isn’t reading, after all, much less when applied to the Word of God. It’s not about getting through the Bible, but encountering Christ therein. That may be a few chapters at a time or may actually be only one verse that you pray with. Whatever the case, slow and steady wins the race, as Aesop reminds us. 

3. We have to read the Scriptures regularly, daily if possible. We read in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Meditating day and night. A good way to start would be to read one Psalm a night as a part of your nightly prayer. Ever better would be praying that one Psalm with your spouse, if married. 

4. Do not worry about starting on page one and reading from cover to cover. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the text. We all know about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Moses and the Plagues. But how many understand animal sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus or its purity laws? It’s very easy, starting from page one and flipping straight through, to lose sight of the story of salvation history. Start from page one if you’d like, but don’t feel like you can’t start with whatever book (especially the Gospels) that you find yourself drawn to. 

5. Come take classes with the Denver Catholic Biblical School! In chapter eight of the Book of Acts, we read of an Ethiopian Eunuch reading from the Prophet Isaiah. When the Deacon Philip asks him if he understands what he’s reading, the Eunuch responds, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” This is what we at the Biblical School are here for – to guide you in your encounter with Christ in the Sacred Scriptures. We’re in the middle of our Scripture classes already for this year, but we always start new classes in the fall every September. And in the meantime, we have plenty of things still coming for this year – a class on Catholic Social Teaching that begins on Jan. 27 a lecture series for Lent that starts on March 1, a conference on the Sacred Heart being offered on May 15 and Aug. 28, and a six-week class on St. Joseph in the summer starting in July. We have something for everybody – just reach out to us!