How shall I make a return to
the Lord for all the good
He has done for me?
What is Stewardship?
What is Stewardship? Let's begin by stating what Stewardship is not. Stewardship is not about money. It is not a fundraising program. It is not about building a new parish hall. It is not a new fad or environmental word.
Stewardship is a way of life
According to the Bishops' Pastoral Letter of 1992, Stewardship: A Disciple's Response, a Christian Steward is:
For more information, please contact the Saint Francis Xavier
Stewardship Chairperson: Lynn Miller
Phone: 801-633-5386 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gratitude is the overarching theme of stewardship
By The Most Rev. John Wester
A dear friend of mine, Father Gene Konkel, SS, tells the story of a fellow he knew in Menlo Park, Calif. This gentleman assisted in the parking lot of a local bank after having suffered a major stroke. The part-time job gave him something to do during the day and afforded him an opportunity to engage with people, whom he missed because he had to quit his regular job. Every time Fr. Gene saw his friend, he would greet him with, "How are you, Bob?" Bob would always answer, "I'm grateful, Father. I'm grateful." I suppose most of us would agree that it often takes the tragedy of a stroke to remind us of how much we have in life and how often we take these gifts for granted. Bob's stroke gave him a vantage point from which to see just how much God gave him every day. His gratitude for what he had trumped the deficits he experienced from his stroke.
Gratitude is the overarching theme of stewardship. Embracing stewardship as a way of life means that we seek to become ever more grateful for all that we are and all that we have. Indeed, the only response we can make to God for gifts received is a response of love, a love born of gratitude. Everything we are and everything we have comes from God. We are incapable of creating anything. Try to name something that is completely of your making. It just cannot be done. True, we can work hard with the gifts we have; we can apply ourselves and use our talents to achieve great accomplishments. Yet everything we do and everything we accomplish can be traced back to God, who is the giver of every good gift. Although there are times when we think we are the "masters of our destinies" who "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps," in reality we are more like little children whose loving parents watch over us and provide for us, often without our even knowing it. As we embrace stewardship as a way of life, as a spirituality, we deepen in our gratitude to our loving and giving God.
One of the best ways to express this gratitude is to deepen in our love of God. God's gifts lead us to him. We are not to hoard or be fixated on God's gifts, but rather we are called to use them as a means of directing us back to God, the giver of the gift. Recall the one leper in Luke's Gospel who realized the great gift of healing he had received. Luke tells us, "and one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice…." (Lk 17: 15). Here we have stewardship in a nutshell! The former leper, realizing what he had received from his gift, was moved to go directly to God, giving him praise, which is another form of gratitude. Because God means so much to us, we treat his gifts with care and concern. While God's gifts may have their own innate or inherent blessing, their true blessing comes from the fact that they symbolize our relationship with God. Think, for example, of a wedding ring: Its true meaning comes from the love between a husband and wife, symbolized by the wedding band.
Another way to express our gratitude is by imitating the giver of the gift. We thank God by doing for one another what God has first done for us. As we share our gifts generously and joyfully with one another, we are imitating God himself and thus giving him the highest form of praise possible. This praise, or thanksgiving, is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian as we give freely to one another. You might say that this is a process whereby we return God's gift to him by allowing our brothers and sisters in Christ to "short stop" them on the way back to God. In this way, God's gifts are multiplied as more and more people benefit from them and as God receives the praise that is his due.
There is an interesting twist in this process of expressing our gratitude to God by sharing our gifts with each other: The more we give of ourselves to others, the more room there is for God to give to us. This in turn allows us to give even more generously in the future, which means that we are ready to receive even more gifts. This process is an endless wellspring of grace because God's gifts know no bounds and his love and mercy are beyond our wildest imagination. Remember the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, found in all four Gospels. The disciples were astonished that not only was everybody fed from only a few loaves and a couple of fish, but there was plenty left over at the end. We can never exhaust God's gifts and, no matter how much we give, God will never be outdone in generosity. This is the "more of God" as a friend of mine, Sister Rosemary Everett, SNJM, likes to say. That's good news for us because it means that we will always have enough! No matter what it is we need, we will have enough. This is truly a mystery that serves to deepen even more our gratitude to such a loving and provident God.
As we prepare to embrace stewardship as a way of life in our diocese, I encourage all of us to spend time contemplating the many gifts God has given us. I realize that this is not easy for everybody because some carry a heavy cross. Yet, even in these cases, God is giving much for which to be grateful. The next time someone asks how you are, think of all the gifts you have and respond, "I'm grateful, thanks. How are you?" You'll be glad you did, and so will our loving and gracious God, the giver of every good gift.