Sunday September 22, 2019
11:14 pm
Bishop Hying

Embracing stewardship means being sacrificially generous to the mission of the Kingdom

       As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on September 11, 2016

 

       Stewardship is one of the eight mission areas of our synod process. Discipleship, evangelization and stewardship are all part of our unified response to the invitation of Christ to follow him in faith, hope and love. To cultivate a sense of stewardship in our lives is to ever more fully realize that everyone and everything in our lives is a gift from God.

       In John’s Gospel, Jesus has dinner for the last time before his fearful Passion with his best friends—Martha, Mary and Lazarus. In the course of the evening, Mary breaks out a alabaster flask of genuine aromatic nard to anoint the feet of Jesus.

       The Scriptures recount that the gift cost 300 days’ wages!  Imagine spending a year’s worth of salary to buy a gift for your best friend. This extravagant gesture shows a heart that is full of love, that does not count the cost, that gives it all to express love for the Lord.

       When we fall in love with God, we stop measuring what we give - the time spent in prayer and service, the financial gifts we make to the Church and to charity, the love and understanding we express, because we realize that all is a gift from the Lord, meant to be used for the building of the Kingdom.

       The human tendency is to accumulate possessions, stuff, money, and Facebook friends as a cushion against insecurity, want and fear. But we can never have enough of what we don’t need, so instinctively keep wanting more and more because it somehow makes us feel safer, more protected and secure.

        Jesus calls us to leave those desires behind and let him be enough for us. This embrace of stewardship does not mean that we must live in a cardboard box, give all our money away and leave our children in destitution. It does mean that we are sacrificially generous to the mission of the Kingdom when it comes to time, talent and treasure and we consciously strive to live with less in order to give more.

       When we examine the lives of the saints, they clearly understood the parable of the pearl of great price - the merchant who sells all he has in order to gain this precious jewel!  In discovering the richness of the Lord’s grace and love in our lives, earthly realities begin to pale in their attraction and importance to us. We can more readily trade material things for spiritual purposes because we realize that we are getting the better end of the bargain. 

       This discovery leads us to a life of gratitude where we can pass on, as a gift, what we ourselves received so gratuitously from the Lord of all gifts. The anointing at Bethany, Francis giving away all his possessions, Mother Teresa leaving the security of her convent, missionaries setting out for foreign lands and never returning - all of these heroic gestures evidence a radical response to the call of Christ. This attitude of gratitude translated into a life of generosity is the definition of stewardship.

       I thank the thousands of remarkable servants of Christ in our diocese who sacrificially give from their need to fuel the mission of the Church!  Think of our parishes, schools, hospitals, charities, service to the poor and sick which daily live out the Gospel. Most of these endeavors continue because of the radical donation of time, money and love on the part of so many. A deep sense of stewardship already flourishes in the hearts of so many. The challenge is to grow this spirit in all of our people. 

       I always dream of what it would be like if every Catholic in the diocese celebrated the Eucharist every Sunday, prayed and read the Scripture every day, volunteered for one thing, put some donations in the collection basket and evangelized the people in their lives. We would change the world even more than we are already doing. 

       Is such a vision just a naïve pipe dream?  I don’t think so.

       Our synod will be both a process and event, where we pray, reflect, converse and plan our future together under the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. This whole experience will only be fruitful to the extent that it enables more and more of us to fall more deeply in love with God and the Church, to stake our lives on the power and truth of the Gospel, and to offer witness to the love and mercy of Christ. 

       Stewardship is how we live that out through deeds and actions as we offer the abundance of gifts we have received as a joyful oblation to the Lord.

       A great quote I really like is: Love is a basket with five loaves and two fish.  It is never enough until you start to give it away.

 

      + Donald J. Hying

 

       follow Bishop Hying at twitter.com/bishophying

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