Over the next few weeks, you will be receiving information about our annual Season of Stewardship. Perhaps you are asking – What is that? Don’t worry too much if that term sounds new to you, as it is only really two years old, which in Church time, might as well be brand new!
Defined simply, Season of Stewardship is the opportunity for each parish household to pray and discern their commitment to stewardship as a way of life. Although I cannot read minds, I am fairly confident that as you see that word “stewardship”, many of you are thinking that this is about asking for money. If I could humbly, yet firmly push back on that, I would say that if that is what you are thinking, then your understanding of stewardship is unfortunately limited. But thanks be to God that you are reading this to understand more clearly what stewardship is in reality!
One of the best definitions I have ever heard on stewardship comes from the Diocese of Wichita, and they define it succinctly: Stewardship is the “grateful response of a Christian Disciple who recognizes and receives God’s gifts and shares these gifts in love of God and neighbor.” Notice the first word in this definition – grateful. Gratitude to God for the gifts that He has given to us must be the beginning of any discussion about stewardship. Every gift that we have in our lives is just that, a gift. A gift that has been received, not one that we own. This is where we as Christians should be different from the rest of society. It is easy to see that what we have – our time, our talents, our bodies, our possessions, our career, our money – is something we have earned, something that we deserve, something that we own. And while it is true that we may have worked hard to achieve and acquire things, all is a gift from God. If it were not for God’s grace and His willing us into existence, we would not have any of what we have. As Christians, perhaps we know this is what we should believe, but do we really believe that? Perhaps we should make that prayer of the Apostles from the Gospel a few weeks ago: “Increase our faith!” (Lk 17:5)
In the brief definition of Season of Stewardship that I give above, I say that this is an opportunity for all of us to pray and discern our commitment to our parish. It is not accidental that we start with prayer. And the beginning of that prayer is what I just mentioned – gratitude. So for now, I am not going to say anything more about discerning what your stewardship to our parish might look like. I simply want you to start with prayer – specifically the prayer of gratitude. Spend some time personally praying about the gifts that are in your life. Write them down if it helps. As you reflect on those gifts, thank God specifically for each item. Maybe keep that list for the next couple of weeks and go back to it every day or two, repeating the process of thanking God for each gift, adding new gifts as you become aware of them.
As an added challenge if you are willing to accept it, pay careful attention to each time you use words such as “my” or “mine” and consider, at least in your mind replacing that with “God’s”. Whether it’s “my day”, “my time”, “my schedule”, “my plan”, “my money”, or “my life.” When we see these things not as mine, but God’s, it might cause us to consider them differently. Perhaps it will make us feel uncomfortable initially, but staying with that thought, it can open the door to an awareness of how all of those things we consider “mine” are in fact gifts from Him, gifts for which we can and should give Him thanks, for as we say at each Mass, to give Him thanks is “right and just.”