Author’s note: This is the second column of three about the total nature of stewardship. It is a letter I have shared with seminarians and newly ordained priests over the past 8 years. You may notice some themes repeated from past columns, and you are likely to see them again in future columns.
Seattle Archbishop Paul Etienne published a pastoral letter in the Diocese of Cheyenne in 2011 that discusses more of the Gospel call to be good stewards of our gifts from God. He wrote:
“All we have and are is a gift. Thus, a spirit of stewardship calls us to make a gift of self to our generous God and others, His children.”
In spite of the eternal truth to this statement, our focus is on what we don’t have. We tell ourselves that we can’t give because we just don’t have enough to share. We have to take care of ourselves first, and there are scarce resources. This scarcity drives what we see as God’s and what we see as ours, even though they are, in fact, the same. It is this attitude of scarcity in a world of plenty that we must overcome before we can truly be good stewards of God’s gifts.
Archbishop Etienne discussed this eloquently in his Pastoral Letter when he wrote:
“A true spirit of stewardship calls us beyond a worldly mentality of “not enough,” which tends to be a selfish consumer attitude, to a faith imbued mentality of “abundance,” which reflects the generous spirit of the Gospel. For example, when Jesus performed the miracle of multiplying the fish and loaves, there was an “abundance” left over, even after feeding the 5,000. It was in sharing with all people that Christ multiplied the food to abundance. Blessed John Paul II teaches that this “abundance” of God’s infinite love still exists in the Church today in the person of Jesus, Who is still Head of His Church and present in the Eucharist. When we trust in this infinite love of God, and act with and from it, we need only step out in faith, practice charity, and witness the abundant good that God can do with such a generous response to His love.”
We have to not only open our hearts, but also those of the people in our lives around us.
This requires a shift of dramatic proportions; a transformation, where we move from scarcity to abundance. It’s not a matter of having more money, more time or more talent, but a matter of believing that all we have comes from God; that He made us in His likeness; that He cannot be outdone in generosity; and that He will always provide.
Always, and in all ways. There’s that word again: all. This is no lukewarm God we worship. He demands it all; and when we give it all, we get more back than we could ever imagine. “More than we can imagine” is the definition of abundance. We give from our abundance, and we receive from God’s abundance. It is not a quid pro quo deal, however. God cannot be outdone in generosity.
We give and we receive. While it does not always work in that particular order, it is the nature of our lives. We were not meant to live in a relational vacuum, caring only about ourselves, needing only ourselves to survive. Rather, we are in a constant exchange with others, offering up a part of ourselves in receipt for something of them.
Sometimes, however, the other side of the giving/receiving cycle is unable to participate. That can happen because of a physical malady or a spirit that has been cast adrift while looking for a safe and holy place to land. In that case, it is inherent upon us as Christians to give whatever is needed to help the person on the other side of the cycle – our neighbor.
Jesus commands us that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 39). He doesn’t suggest; He commands us. St. James tells us that “faith, of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2: 17).
The message suddenly becomes very, very clear that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves; and that means we must actually do something about it. Prayer is the most powerful action we can enter into when giving to our neighbor. What greater action could be undertaken than asking our Creator to intercede on behalf of one’s neighbor?
As always, thanks for reading. I would love to hear from you. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next up – All of me, part III