As you may have heard mentioned at Mass or received by letter via the mail, we are commencing our annual Season of Stewardship—a time in which we as a parish family reflect on our call to grow in discipleship and stewardship. As disciples, the hope is that we are continually advancing in the Christian life: increasing our knowledge of God and expanding our service to Him. Just as the Apostles didn’t stop following Christ the minute they were chosen as Apostles (or ever cease learning how to follow Him!), we never really stop as Christians learning how to be better and more committed disciples. The principle is much like exercise: the minute you stop using a particular muscle is the minute it begins to atrophy. If we stop “exercising” our discipleship, we can be assured that the devil will use that to begin to make us regress in the spiritual life—to feel more distant from God or to begin to become numb to the graces that He is trying to bestow upon us.
The same is true with stewardship. The more deeply we fall in love with the Lord, the more deeply we feel committed, driven really, to make our own response: to be a “steward” of the many blessings God continues to give. Stewardship is about making a joyful return to the Lord, in gratitude, for the complete gratuity of God’s gifts. We can be stewards in many ways: stewards of creation, stewards of our own vocations, stewards in regard to the Church and Her resources. And stewardship is more than about just giving money. It’s about realizing that ALL of this (the stuff of this world, our own resources, the things of the Church) was entrusted to us by God to perpetuate, cultivate, and share.
As you are probably aware, in our diocesan synod several years ago, our local Church committed itself to living more boldly this two-fold call to discipleship and stewardship. As such, we will continue every year to take this time to “take stock” of our own lives, to assess how we are taking seriously the call to grow in discipleship and then, as a response, in stewardship, especially along three lines: Time, Talent, and Treasure.
Becoming a more conscious steward does not just happen overnight. It begins as a true flowering of authentic, intentional discipleship. When I was young and realized that I enjoyed singing, my first thought was not: “I shall now become a cantor at Church!” Eventually though, as I learned more about Jesus and became more of a disciple, that seemed like something that the Lord was calling me to do—to share a talent that He had given me. Even as a seminarian, it was not natural to me to begin the practice of tithing 10% of my income (which I assure you, was never a lot as a student and priest-in-training!)—that began only when I began to stop and reflect on the fact that everything that I did have (or “earn”) was itself a gift; as a growing disciple, I felt God calling me to make a more generous return to Him, to share more sacrificially with Him and thereby to grow in trust and realization of His providence. I did not wake up one morning just thinking, “I want to give my entire life to God as a priest.” That response, the gift of my years, came only because I first took the time to build my relationship with God, committed myself to the path of discipleship, and tried to learn more about God and the Church.
In other words, brothers and sisters, none of this stewardship stuff will just come “naturally.” As we consider how God is calling us to give more of ourselves (whether time, talent, or treasure), it must first start as a deeper desire to be His, a real disciple. The stewardship will come. Start with committing yourself to Him. Then, as we enter these days of discerning what our stewardship looks like, I would encourage you to PRAY. Yes, seriously, PRAY. Don’t just fill out the card and hand it in. I assure you, if that’s all this exercise becomes, then your responses will be as futile to me (i.e. to our parish) as they were annoying to you! Please do turn it in, eventually…but to keep this from being an exercise in futility, don’t turn it in before actually asking the Lord what He wants from you, how He wants you to share more of your life with Him.
I pray that this time brings you a new flowering of grace and a deep awareness of God’s desire to share Himself with you. Together, as we discern then, let’s promise to God to make a joyful return to Him of all that He has already shared with us.
Keep spreading joy!